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How should a wife respond to discovering her husband has been viewing pornography?

How should a wife respond to discovering
her husband has been viewing pornography?
What should she be allowed to expect?

When discovering your husband has been using pornography…(Otherwise known as “When you get hit by a truck…”

– Scream! – When an individual is hit by a truck, initially, it does not really matter why the driver hit you with the truck, pain is pain! Before you have time to figure out how much damage has been done, before you have time to figure out why the truck hit you, you have the right to have a strong emotional reaction. I do not expect someone who has been hit by a truck to control their expressions of pain, just to make it easier on the driver of the truck. And if the driver of the truck says, “You shouldn’t scream so loud because it was an accident. The only reason I hit you with the truck is because of my addiction to alcohol. So, I need you to not ‘react’, but be supportive instead.” I don’t think I need to explain why that is crazy talk.

Some pornography users and addicts justify not telling their spouses because, “It has nothing to do with her.” Sure, an alcohol drinker can hide it from his spouse and believe that, “what she doesn’t know won’t hurt her”, but is that really true? Does the drinker think that the time and money spent on the drinking and not with the family is unnoticeable? Does he think there are no changes in the way he thinks, feels and behaves?

-Withdraw a safe distance – Get out of the road and into a hospital. Get some distance between you and the person who has hurt you. Contact someone who might be able to help you. Hopefully, you have a constructive relationship with your parents and/or church leader. These people can help you get to the help you need (they are like an ambulance). Ask them to help you get into a well trained doctor who will know how to accurately diagnose your injuries and help you begin healing correctly. Unfortunately, some people just walk home after being hit by a truck and just try to recover/heal on their own. I understand why you don’t want to get professional help…the embarrassment, the cost…. Unfortunately, broken bones often heal incorrectly when professional help is not involved, leading to long lasting discomfort. Please, get a professional involved, even if it is for just one visit!

– Discover the extent of the damage. – Unfortunately, it is going to take time to get the full extent of the disloyalty. Alcohol, drug and porn users are not known for open and honest full disclosure on first visit. Unfortunately, this is part of the addiction. As an addiction develops, the ability to distort truth and reality increases. During the early stages of recovery, the addict is usually still more concerned about avoiding the pain of watching you be in pain. I often hear them say, “I should never have told her. It only made things worse (for me).”

Almost universally, the truth comes out in layers. As the user/addict gains more courage and integrity, he will gradually reveal more. It has been my experience that women are capable of getting a signal from God when they have heard all they need to hear. Until you feel this way, keep some distance, especially emotional distance, from the man until you get the signal from God that you have heard all you need to hear, otherwise, he could very well (accidentally) run you over again.

Scientifically speaking, in order to help a woman heal, I (and the wife) will need to know what types of behaviors have gone on as well as the frequency and duration. I (and the wife) do not need graphic details. These tend to cause the most, unnecessary, trauma.

The man involved (user or addict) often unknowingly insults his wife during this process by deciding what information she can and cannot handle. Usually, unknowingly, the man adds insult to injury when he communicates, “I can’t run you over at all without you screaming out in pain about it, so I am going to do both of us a favor by not telling you about it.”

I should comment here on a concept I have previously discussed called “The Creepy Guy Detector”. You know that game that little toddlers play where they put their hands over their eyes and declare, “You can’t see me!” I observe situations where the man misbehaves significantly and then hopes that the woman cannot tell. I am convinced that in many cases women are blessed with a “sense” that something is wrong. Rarely are they told (by God) what is wrong, but this instinct is tends to be very accurate. (You can read more about this in a previous blog post.)

Boiling it down to application: It is always my goal to help families and marriages stay together whenever possible, so this intervention is designed to allow for the possibility of the family staying together but at the same time allowing the offended spouse a chance to have some degree of intolerance for the misbehaviors.

Simply, whenever the offending spouse has a lost battle, the offender must sleep outside the marital bed; on first offense, this is one night. On second offense, this is two nights. On third, three and so forth. Offender sleeps on the floor of the bedroom, on the couch in the other room or where ever the offended decides. This decision about where to sleep should be made in advance so that it is not based on emotion.

If held to firmly, the addict part of the offender’s brain will have to calculate in advance if time on the floor will be “worth it. I know, it seems remedial, but it cannot be ignored that when an individual behaves in an addictive way, her or she is functioning on a less-than-adult level of maturity and is best interacted with on a less-than-adult level of interaction. I do not think the offended spouse should behave without dignity, nor be disrespectful, but the offended party should be allowed to have some safety space for increasing amounts of time if the offender is not able to get it under control.

Yes, one of two things will happen. Either the person with the addiction will get sick of not being able to sleep in his or her own bed and will start to do whatever it takes to correct the addictive behavior. Or, if the addict behavior persists, the offended party is granted more and more safety. Eventually, if the couple is spending as many as 30 days in a row apart, then the condition of the marriage is more easily observed, and the long term condition of the marriage should be re-evaluated seriously.

So, what should a wife be allowed to expect from her husband in the area of sexuality? She should be able to expect him to gain complete mastery over his sexual urges. She should be able to expect him to not use her to get his “fix”. She should be allowed to expect to not be emotionally abused no matter how much discomfort he feels when he must “go without”, especially if he is in recovery. “Helping a guy out” by providing him with a sexual experience right after he is emotionally unpleasant with his wife is like buying a candy bar for a child after he throws a tantrum in the grocery store check out line. She should be allowed to experience sexuality as an edifying experience, an activity that brings a sense of peace, joy and closeness to both her and her spouse. For more detail on this read, “And the Man Knew His Wife”.

In my experience, woman do not require perfection from their men, but almost all of them are drawn to a man who is making valiant efforts to improve himself while at the same time are being kind to her no matter how difficult life experiences get.

I could go on and on on this subject. Let me know which pieces you would like elaboration or clarification on.

Sincerely,

Maurice W. Harker, LPC

3 Responses so far.

  1. HippoLady says:

    Wow! Talk about hit the nail on the head…

  2. J says:

    Agreed HippoLady!

    I remember trying to be strong by pretending that I was okay and that it didn't hurt… Those were really hard times…

    M, your description of what a woman experiences is SPOT ON! Thanks for sharing… even though I'm 19 months out, I still feel peace and comfort when I come to your blog. I know that your counsel is very wise and I feel blessed to have had you during that most hideous time.

    J

  3. S says:

    I wish I had know this over 10 years ago when I first learned of my husband's addiction. We may be healed instead of still trying to assess the the damage.

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