Porn is Horrible – Now What?

January 17, 2014

in Uncategorized

If the past two posts on pornography (Pornography: It’s Not You, It’s Him and Who Uses Porn, and Why?) upset you, I apologise. The truth on this is ugly, but I think we are better off knowing the truth.

You may be wondering if your husband is looking at porn, and what to do if he is.

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I do not know your husband, but I do know a majority of men – even those going to church – use porn from time to time. There are also plenty of men who do not look at porn, and those who are slowly winning the battle against porn.

Many men are afraid to admit the truth to their wife about their use of porn, be it current or past. They expect she will “over react”, so they just keep it hidden. I am not telling you “it’s not a big deal” (I think it is a big deal) but staying calm will make it far easier to get positive results. I understand why it feels personal, but many men have convinced themselves their porn use is separate from their marriage and sex with their wives (23% said this in our recent survey*). If he is willing to change, work with him rather than trying to get him to see it your way. As he gets free, he will see it more clearly.

Another reason men do not talk to their wives about porn is the fear she will expect him to stop cold turkey. I know a very few men who have done it that way. I also know a very few people who quit smoking cold turkey. It happens, but it is exceptionally rare. Most men slip from time to time – and most hate themselves for each slip. Slips are more common when a man is stressed, depressed, or lonely. If his slips are less and less frequent, he is making progress. 

How Can You Help?

  • Grace, grace, and more grace. This does not mean ignoring or downplaying his sin; it does mean loving him even when he messes up.
  • Decide his porn use is not really about sex. This will make it easier for you to deal with it, and will make it easier to understand it is not about you. It affects you, and it affects your sex life, but so would his being drunk or abusing painkillers.
  • Don’t blame every sex act he suggests on porn. It may be because of porn, but if he denies that to himself, you are not going to convince him otherwise. Accept or reject his suggestions based on how you feel about them. If he asks why, give a reason that has nothing to do with porn.
  • Understand porn has messed up his sexuality. Even if he accepts this, he cannot possibly see how much damage has been done. It will take a long time for him to see reality, and it could take years for him to get past it. He cannot apologise for a wrong he cannot see, so do not get hung up on that. Work to develop a good healthy sex life. Yes, the burden is on you; I am so sorry.
  • Prayer – for him, and for yourself. He has a difficult struggle ahead  – pray for him daily. You have been hurt by this, and you will need to deal with that – pray that will not interfere with his getting free of porn.
  • Encourage him to tell someone. If he refuses to tell anyone, he is not ready to stop. Accountability partners can be huge, but it needs to be someone who does not currently share the problem. He does not need to tell the world, but he needs someone he sees regularly who will ask him how he is doing.
  • Avoid gossip, but get help for yourself. Your need to discuss this is valid, but so is his need to not be publicly shamed. If you think you need to talk to a counsellor, do so; but be sensitive to his concerns about whom. If you do not need a counsellor but need to be able to share, explain to him it will help you if you can share with one friend who knows how to keep a confidence.

Will More or Different Sex Help?

Maybe, maybe not. Most think it will help, but this comes from the wrong idea that they look at porn because they are sexually aroused and/or sexually frustrated. Porn is primarily about escape, and if his escape it removed without dealing with what he is trying to escape, he may just find another escape.

If he really wants to be free of porn, and if he is working to deal with the underlying problems, then good marital sex can help him be less frustrated, and that may make him feel less need to go back to porn. This is not a case of not wanting porn because he is “getting enough sex”. Rather, a healthy sex life reduces his stress level, reducing his need for porn as a stress reliever.

Related post: Be His Porn Star? Here’s the Problem… on Intimacy in Marriage

When Enough is Enough.

What if he just keeps using porn? Either he does not try to stop, or he fails repeatedly to stop. Can you divorce over porn?

The Bible says the only reason one can divorce and then be free to remarry is for sexual sin. The Greek word Jesus used Mt 19:9 was used as a catch all for term covering all sexual immorality. Many will argue that pornography does not qualify. If a man will not even attempt to stop after his wife complains, I think she may well have a biblical reason for divorce. However, having a biblical reason does not mean one should divorce!

My suggestion would be to make it clear you are going to keep on him until he deals with it. That does not mean just nagging, it means being ready to go to others for help, and maybe even an ultimatum. His porn use is sucking the life out of your marriage, and you need to treat is as such.

~ Paul – I’m XY and I HATE porn!

* By the Way: The survey on porn use and attitudes I mentioned on Wednesday is done and the results are posted on The Marriage Bed website.

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{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

Anon. January 17, 2014 at 5:34 am

I have enjoyed your male perspective and usually do not comment but this is a topic that I need to express on. I can understand God made differences in the genders but this area I do not understand. Why is a man visual and drawn and able to so easily convince himself it does not affect his wife yet God created a woman to need to be cherished and captivating to her husband? There seems to be no correlation of something a woman is drawn to that destroys her husbands heart like this destroys a woman’s –there is no way for a man to understand and be motivated to not look by the understanding of the deep pain he causes.

I think everyone reading this who is raising children should educate them on this topic. I think most women would choose to not marry rather than be betrayed in this devastating way if most men-even those claiming to follow Christ–are justifying porn use now. Yes the truth is extremely ugly and your daughters need to hear and learn about this-especially from the dads who use who represent themselves as Christians. Sons need to be taught the dangers of the Internet age also and protecting themselves from easy access and curiosity but I’m guessing that may more likely be a topic in the home for boys already. The objectification and consumerism of females needs to be talked about in the home and in our churches. Speak up men. Please!

Of course this is adultery. Matt. 5: 27-28. It is disheartening to learn so many men choose to make porn and lust their god by honoring their selfish desires rather than honor God and their wife. It is even more disheartening to hear the justification that this is separate from their wife. This is not a separate issue from marriage or a wife. I can say as a woman this would be a devastating betrayal. My heart goes out to all women hurting by this betrayal. May God heal you and give you comfort. I pray for all the men–to stay strong and do not allow justifications in your mind. I pray for all men already trapped -to be set free and to be able to make amends. I pray that God defeats satan on this war front today.

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Lori January 17, 2014 at 12:23 pm

I think the point is that God designed men to be captivated by the beauty and grace of their wives. The enemy understands that and tries to snag their eyes.

Men tend to be more compartmentalized which can be a great strength when you need to stay focused. However, the enemy pushes that strength into a weakness and makes it easy for men to rationalize that porn is a separate issue from their sexuality with their wives.

Basically we need to know ourselves and where we can be tempted and set up reasonable safeguards.

And actually I think there are ways that women can tear deeply at their men. Sex and words. I’ve seen women destroy their husbands with refusal and infidelity. I’ve heard women decimate their husband with cruel words. Sadly both genders are capable of betrayal and cruelty.

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Paul Byerly January 17, 2014 at 1:18 pm

Anon – Thanks for the comments. A lot to cover there.

If our sex drive did not slow us down, I suspect most men would not get serious about marriage until middle age. All the drive to accomplish and build and conquer would keep us too busy to find time for women. I’m not saying sex is the only reason men are attracted to women, but it often is what gets our attention long enough to discover all the great reasons to find one special lady and make a life with her. I see the women’s different drives and focus as a form of balance. We can each learn and gain from the other. If we were both like men, or women, I don’t think it would work.

I think it is human nature to convince ourselves that what we are doing it not really bad, and to ignore the pain we cause others. It may be easier for men because we are less empathetic, but I see women who do it well too.

As for the level of pain porn can cause, I agree it can be very bad, and I think most men have no clue. I don’t think I agree that women don’t do anything as painful. Studies show that men are more emotionally hurt by divorce than women, and men are more likely to leave a cheating wife than the other way around. (Of course the latter may be about pride.)

Most men say the most painful thing their wife can do to them is to refuse sex. There is no way to measure which is worse, but both are horrible.

I agree we need to educate our children. Unfortunately it is not just the boys now – most girls use porn too. According to covenanteyes.com, 62% of girls see internet porn before age 18. While some of this is accidental or shown to them by others, it is increasingly common for girls to seek out and use porn. Covenant eyes says 23% of teen girls admit to spending at least half an hour looking at porn online. For boys it is even worse – 93% have seen it by age 18, and 70% have spent at least half an hour looking. If young adults refuse to marry those who have seen porn, most will never get married! Ideally I think both fathers and mothers need to discuss porn with both their sons and their daughters. Of course more than half the fathers and a quarter of the mothers are using porn, so I don’t expect much from them.

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Anon. January 17, 2014 at 8:57 pm

I wanted to clarify that I do not mean that a woman will not or cannot do something that would deeply hurt a man or that men are not capable of feeling deep hurt. What I do not understand is that God designed a woman to be deeply hurt and betrayed by her man looking sexually at others and he designed a man to be visual. I’m guessing most men would not care or at least not be devastated that their wife looked at other men and or porn. There seems to be no correlation of something a woman is naturally wired for that her husband needs exactly the opposite-as in a man being visual and a woman needing the security and adoration of her husband having eyes only for her.

I know with the ease of access-no public humiliation, on phones even and free-that porn has to be the hardest addiction and curiosity for any teen would draw them in. I’m saying I would guess a majority of men have been exposed to porn and I would guess a lot of wives and moms are very, very ignorant. Keeping this problem in the dark is not going to help anyone and it is going to grow as a problem for the next generation of marriages if people don’t start talking about this in the churches today.

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Paul Byerly January 18, 2014 at 1:38 pm

Anon – Ah sorry, I misunderstood. I cannot think of a correlation with the genders reversed.

As with most (all?) sin, the problem is not how God made us, but how sin takes advantage of how God made us.

I agree that most moms, and I think most dads as well, have no idea how bad it is for our kids. Discussing it is certainly necessary and wise.

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Bonny January 17, 2014 at 12:21 pm

Grace, grace and more grace. If I knew before marriage what I know now about my husband’s porn addiction, would I still marry him? A big resounding, Yes! You know why? He is a man who loves God with his whole being and yet battles in not looking. As a wife, I need to remember who the enemy is. It is not my husband. I think most of our porn viewing husband’s are goodwilled men. Most of our porn viewing husbands have been deeply wounded. Porn is truly a self-medication. This is where grace comes in. Heaping ashes of humiliation and shame is not going to help our men reclaim their spiritual selves. Because only by reconnecting with Jesus on an intimate level will they find what they are truly craving. However, the first step is in admitting they have a problem. Not all husbands are willing to admit that because the pain of admission is more than the pain of keeping the secret. Satan’s trap tells our men that the pain is too great to ever break free. However, our Christian men can handle the pain, because they have Christ. We just have to help the husbands understand this and help wives to understand they have great power to help their man heal.

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Paul Byerly January 17, 2014 at 1:27 pm

Bonny – Thanks!

You are right about shame and humiliation – they do nothing to help, and actually cause the kind of feelings that can drive a man to porn.

I know some men honestly think porn is okay, but at least among Christians this is not the norm. I think more have just given up, feeling they will never be free. I have talked with men who hate themselves for their porn use – but still go back to it.

It is very difficult for most men to get free. As one man said in our survey “I in my life have quit methamphetamine, smoking, and heavy drinking…and quitting porn is the hardest thing I have EVER done.”

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brokenclay February 16, 2015 at 1:22 pm

Thank you sister. :-)

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brokenclay February 16, 2015 at 1:24 pm

I goofed! I commented on the wrong post. How do I delete this?

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Jon January 29, 2014 at 6:48 am

Anon.,
Lots of great points and perspectives in this blog and comments. Here’s my 2 cents…
Perhaps it’s apples and oranges, but one thing I have observed is wives putting their children on a pedestal in a manner that is a detriment to the marriage relationship. I don’t mean in a manner that is healthy and balanced, and I am not referring to marriages where the husband doesn’t get involved with the children (as we should). I mean it is children first, then God (or maybe vice versa) and then the husband might come in third if he’s lucky, however work, chores and other things will often drive him to the bottom of the priority list. The children’s “needs” become the scapegoat for a host of things, especially neglecting the husband’s needs and the bonding of the marriage in general, both inside and outside the bedroom. I expect I will get flamed for this, because most men are fearful to point it out…husbands, whether they realize it or not, notice when they become second or third class citizens to their wives. The kind of wife I am talking about may even pay lip service to the fact that she believes a healthy structure is God, husband and then kids. She may claim to agree that a balanced, nourished marriage overflows into a sense of contentment and security for the children. But her behavior, attitudes and responsiveness (or lack thereof) say the opposite. This leads to escalating feelings of hurt, resentment, anger and yes…even betrayal. And even broaching the subject will lead to more problems. How dare a man say the children shouldn’t come first. How dare he hint he isn’t able to take up his cross and sacrifice his entire life and happily abandon his God-designed needs. In my opinion, the hurt and betrayal drills as deep or even deeper than something on par with a man turning to porn. Because the object of betrayal isn’t some unknown stranger, it’s your own children, who you love and cherish just as much as your wife. Now there’s guilt piled on top of hurt and resentment. Is it really that mystifying that eventually even the most devout man will feel like little more than an ATM who is expected to run a tight ship? That his innermost needs for closeness, intimacy and companionship are an issue he needs to conquer and learn to live without? That he must stay faithful to God and his family, suppress the memories of how the love of his life treated him prior to kids entering the scene? Of course he will give up and turn to some form(s) of escape. If only such a wife would embrace the idea that, deep down, her husband desires her to be his escape.

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Paul Byerly January 29, 2014 at 1:02 pm

I won’t argue with your point, but I will point out that you did put some blame on the husbands for not being sufficiently involved with their children. Human nature it to compensate when we see something not being done. Compensation means going too far the other direction in an attempt to balance things out. But a dad who does too little and a mom who does too much does not result in balance – it hurts the kids and the marriage.

While women are probably more given to this, I see a lot of men doing it too. There is a growing tendency to spoil our kids by giving them too much – too much stuff, and too much to do. This is bad for everyone, including the kids.

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brokenclay February 16, 2015 at 1:45 pm

Very well said. Thank you. An issue my wife and I discussed on our 31rst year of marriage. We have 3 grown sons. But she says; they come first. So! I put God first; sons next; her last. Well? It’s what she wanted. I have been frank with her about my needs because she told me to let her know how I feel. So this freedom has led me to love her and lavish her with words of affirmation and I get much love in return. Things did change as the kids got older. We have gotten to know and respect each other and not take hurt feelings to a court room and turn it into a money issue. And any sins are confessed so that we can love each each other back to health; not let our sinful flesh vindicate itself. Our trials and temptations God promised He would by them; make a way out. He is our deliverer. Be patient! Love your sisters in the Lord. Pray for them. In Christ.

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IntimacySeeker March 25, 2014 at 11:02 am

Even with all the healing I have experienced in my marriage the past several months, I have to say that if I knew before I married what I now know about a man’s visual nature, I would have remained single. Knowing that my husband has to be intentional and make an effort or make a decision not to lust after seeing an attractive woman will always be a source of sadness for me. I realize this is not the focus of this discussion, but am piggybacking on what Anon said in her initial post: “I think most women would choose to not marry rather than be betrayed in this devastating way…”

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Paul Byerly March 25, 2014 at 12:54 pm

I understand your point – as much as a man can. I pray you will someday feel differently. We all struggle with sins, and not sinning requires intentionality. Sex is no different, no worse, and no better.
Perhaps if women fully understood this they would have a great deal of compassion for it.

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IntimacySeeker March 26, 2014 at 12:18 pm

Thank you. I also pray I will someday feel differently. And I have begun to feel compassion. Other conversation around this seemed to indicate that a husband chooses to desire his wife to protect the marriage and/or keep damage to a minimum. As if his natural instinct is to pursue other women, but as a way of limiting or preventing damage to his marriage, he resists. I would like to be the woman my husband NATURALLY desires–not one he has to make a point of desiring. Seems that he is making a concession and denying what he naturally, instinctively wants. I need to be more than a concession. And if I can’t be that, I would rather be alone.

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Paul Byerly March 27, 2014 at 9:13 am

We are back to the difference between awareness/arousal and desire.

I don’t think men naturally desire other women, I think that is part of our sin nature. I think desiring only one’s wife is how God made us, and as such it is not that difficult for a man to desire his wife alone. I desire no one else, not even a little. I would not be with another woman even if it were okay with my wife and God because I do not WANT to be with any other women. I do not know your husband, but he may be the same way.

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IntimacySeeker March 30, 2014 at 1:14 pm

This is less about confusing arousal with desire and more about facing my fear of abandonment (FOA). My first experience with sex and romance ended with me a pregnant teen and my boyfriend breaking up with me because he wanted to see other people. I was in crisis and attempted suicide.
Many experiences in my marriage have pushed my FOA button. Likewise, my husband’s comments about other women’s physical beauty throughout our 33 years of marriage echo that first boyfriend’s interest in other girls. (He knows about these issues and how they are affecting us—we have talked about it.)
So… that he must make a choice not to desire other women means I have to trust him. If I believe he chooses me, I risk being hurt. Just as a husband whose wife has refused sexual intimacy for years may be cautious about believing she has changed her tune.
In my other conversations with you and your readers, it seemed a husband chooses to desire his wife to avoid unpleasant or painful experiences. He settles for her.
• It wouldn’t be good for me, for her, for my marriage, or for my walk with God.
• Just as I may be attracted to cheesecake and decline it because of negative effects on my health, I am attracted to other women and turn away to avoid negative effects on my marriage.
• The smell of fresh baked bread causes hunger, but because I have Celiac disease and eating it would make me very ill, I decline it. Likewise, the sight of an attractive woman causes sexual arousal, but because I am married I turn away.
In my conversation with Chris at The Forgiven Wife, it seems a husband’s desire for his wife is a natural and powerful aspect of their relationship. He celebrates her.
• No other woman can compare to me because I am his woman with whom he associates pleasure and intimacy.
• I am his and he is mine.
• I belong to him and he treasures me.
Some weeks ago, I was meditating on Psalm 34 throughout the week and one phrase resonated with me: Seek peace, and pursue it. I hope you don’t mind the way I have pressed this issue with you. My motive is to find peace and improve my marriage, not to pester you or drive you crazy.
Thank you for your patience and for all you are doing to help married couples do better.

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Paul Byerly March 31, 2014 at 9:52 am

First my congratulations on the understanding you have of your situation – and the courage it takes to face it so clearly. I see how your past makes some of this very difficult for you.
Are there men who choose to desire their wife to avoid problems? Perhaps. This is not the case for me. I choose her, and with that choice came a loss of desire for any other woman. I did not settle for just her, I settled on her because she was the best.
Food analogies always fall short. I have yet to find a good way to explain it.
Chris is right, glad she found words that you could hear.
Finally, you are in no way pestering us. We are here to see marriages do better.

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kim May 28, 2015 at 11:57 pm

A lot of men, like my husband, are digging their heels in and saying that there is nothing wrong with porn and that I/their wives who don’t accept it have a problem. They try to say it’s about insecurity. My husband ended up leaving ME solely because I could not accept porn. It’s a big issue today and is getting more and more pervasive. I, and others who don’t like porn, are saying that we feel steamrollered on the issue. I will be single the rest of my life because I haven’t met anyone who doesn’t look at it. But I know it is not good. I have many reasons why. This is very sad.

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Paul Byerly May 29, 2015 at 10:54 am

I’m so sorry!
I’ve had this argument with many men, and I find they have no interest in facts. They are enslaved by porn and unwilling to hear the truth.
Even those who don’t believe in sin are learning porn can be a problem. Porn and real sex are not compatible, especially if one takes in large amounts of porn.
There are men who understand the truth. Some are free, some are working to get free.
Paul Byerly recently posted…Friday Flashback: Sex – Holy, or Necessary Evil?My Profile

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