A Different Take on His Porn Struggle

October 21, 2016

in Uncategorized

Imagine your daughter is anorexic, or you suspect she is. Would you punish her for not eating? Would you tell her she must leave the bathroom door open so you can make sure she’s not throwing up? What if you found out your son was cutting himself? Would you tell him he was grounded until he stopped? Would you demand to check his body for new cuts every day?

Shame, punishment, and violations of privacy wouldn’t help in these situations; in fact, they would make things worse. The behaviours in question are ways of coping with pain or not feeling in control. So adding pain and removing control only makes the situation worse.

A Different Take on His Porn Struggle

I’m going to suggest that for many men porn use is far closer to cutting and anorexia than you think. They may enjoy it in the moment, but it’s really about coping with their pain, loneliness, sense of failure, or some other negative feeling or feelings. The sexual part of porn is not the point or the goal. Porn use is hijacking a man’s God-given sexuality to sooth pain, feel powerful, or just numb out.

I’m not saying this to get your husband off the hook. Looking at porn is wrong; it’s a sin against you, God, and his own sexuality. But beyond that, catching him looking at porn is more like catching him cutting himself than catching him in bed with another woman. Adultery is a simple sin compared to porn use. Adultery is about selfishness and lack of self-control; porn use is a complex issue that often includes self-loathing, self-destructive thinking and other negative things. 

I’m not suggesting his porn use shouldn’t matter to you or shouldn’t hurt you. But I do hope you can see past that; see the bigger picture of his pain and struggle. Curiosity and lust are what get a man into porn, but it’s not what keeps him enslaved. Just like anorexia or self-cutting, porn has the power to make a helpless person feel they have control. It’s a destructive but sure way to feel better for a while, and that’s why men keep doing it.

Another part of this is that a man’s porn use is not about his wife. Men who get all the sex they could want look at porn. Men having sex with porn actresses look at porn. The triggers for porn use have nothing to do with a man’s wife or his sexual satisfaction. I know plenty of men who say more sex would help them look at porn less, but the majority of them are wrong. I’ve talked to plenty of men who thought getting married would end their struggle with porn, but I’ve yet to find one who found this to be true. If sex is not the primary trigger, no amount of sex will cause porn to lose its draw.

If your husband is using porn, your very natural reaction to that is just adding to his reasons to use porn. I’m not a woman, so I can’t imagine what it would take to react differently, but I do know it would make a huge difference for most men.

The disclaimer: Some men don’t care. They see nothing wrong with porn so they don’t even try to avoid it. They’re almost certainly using it for the reasons I’ve discussed here, but since they don’t want to stop their wife’s attitude is irrelevant. 

~ Paul, I’m XY and I hate what porn does to men, women, and marriages.

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{ 74 comments… read them below or add one }

Libl October 21, 2016 at 3:36 am

If that is the case then he needs to go to the psyche ward or mental institution. That is where they send cutters and anorexics.

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Lynn October 21, 2016 at 5:24 am

Yes, I’ve visited treatment centers for anorexics and bulimics. They are monitored in the bathroom and there are ‘punitive’ aspects in the supervised mealtimes. It makes good sense for a couple to decide that the home computer should be in a public place or that passwords be shared. On the other hand, of course berating the person or having a fit isn’t going to help, not with porn or any other negative behavior, from drug use to laziness. A person’s spouse is not going to be a perfectly therapeutic individual, though. We are going to have our reactions: disappointment, anger, disgust.

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Madeline12 October 21, 2016 at 6:45 am

I struggle with having any empathy or compassion. Not knowing how many of the pictures are willing participants or forced is the catcher for me.

I am not trying to be provocative, but in my mind I just think that if a man is deriving sexual enjoyment from a woman forced to commit sexual acts, how is that any different from slave owners using their slaves for sex? It’s just another form of voyeuristic sex slavery.

I’m sure that the vast majority are not, but some are. Porn sickens me in a way few other sin do.

If a man is willing to use porn, he’s not safe. I cannot trust him to care for me or my children. Men can try to compartmentalize it away, but it can’t be.

Any man who will participate in any activity which has anything to do with slavery and human trafficking is unfit to have the care and protection of women and children.

I don’t feel sorry for the Southern plantation owners who ‘used their slave women’. I have zero compassion for porn users.

I know as a believer I should for any brother or sister entangled and caught in sin as I am myself in other ways, but it would dishonest to say that I do.

I feel very, very strongly about it, but admit I am prejudiced, especially since we have two abduction attempts on our very beautiful daughter at age 18 months by a man over 60 who I caught masturbating with his pants open at a mall while looking at her and who tried to snatch her out of her stroller while I was getting her away from him and a man who tried to lure her with candy in the toy aisle at Walmart who I stopped and chased when she was 4. I can’t even think about what would have happened to her and the images produced – and the thought of middle class guys watching it for pleasure makes me want to cry and vomit.

Porn is so evil that I have trouble no matter if it’s fully adult consenting men and women getting paid.

I hear you, Paul, but there’s some of out there that need an act of God to get to the point that you’re suggesting of compassion. I don’t know if I ever will.

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Paul Byerly October 21, 2016 at 10:38 am

@Madeline12 – I have no idea what to say to you. But two questions.

1) If a man who looks at porn is not safe, what do was say about a woman who willingly makes porn? There is a great deal of amateur porn out there, some free, some for a small fee. Some of this is women who think doing porn is a good way to make extra money, but plenty of them admit it’s more about expressing an exhibitionistic desire.

2) Are women who look at porn safe? According to a study by George Barna, two-thirds of women 18-31 look at porn. For women age 32 to 50, it’s a third.

I’m totally against porn, but it’s no a male problem anymore. Most women under 40 choose to watch it, and more and more women are willingly producing and sharing it. If we want to deal with it I think we must deal with the reality, not how we want to think it is.
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ted October 21, 2016 at 8:47 am

At the risk of stirring the pot here, I’m going to share my thoughts on this. Before I do I’m going to state, I have a child who was sexually molested so I know the pain this involved with that. I have more personal experience with the results of sexual assault within my extended family than most. I myself have been used sexually, although I recognize my sin was an integral factor.
Yet I struggle with porn. Not your traditional idea of porn, with staged scenes. I’m drawn to the readily available selfie porn. Every thing Paul has said about this is true. I understand you ladies reaction who have experienced sexual assault and or attempted sexual assault. If you don’t struggle with this, you cannot understand how complex the problem can be. Equating a child molester to your average porn user is like equating a serial killer to a man who kills his wife for cheating. Self-righteous indignation is not helpful. Shaming with talking about sex trafficking etc., etc , etc. does not help It only drives the problem deeper underground. No man or woman is proud of their porn use if they are Christians. Remember Jesus was most harsh with those who condemned others because they happen to sin differently than them. He did not condemn the woman caught in adultery. He never even addressed the subject of slavery, even though it was certainly a common practice at the time. I would suggest that to understand what Paul and I am saying you have to question your preconceived notions of how the world works. It’s not as neat and clean, or cut and dried, or black and white as you think.

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Libl October 21, 2016 at 9:45 am

I would say there is a difference between the trauma of child sexual abuse manifested in porn use, and a normally sober husband choosing to visit pork sites to numb or avoid dealing with a stressful day at work or a pregnant wife on pelvic rest puking her guts out in the bathroom.

The former needs medical level profession attention. The latter needs a slap upside the head with a dose of mature the fig up.

If porn use has gotten to the level of comparing it with cutting and anorexia, even heroin addiction, etc, then I suppose I stand by my statement that the person needs help, perhaps even institutionalization.

I know a young man who was institutionalized for his mental issues which manifested in porn use. I also know of another man who lost almost everything and was made to go through two years of counseling and discipline for using porn only about once or twice every couple of years. The former fell into the first category of mental issues from some childhood trauma. The second simply had a selfish lust for women and curiosity.

That said, those in the former category may never fully recover. It may be a daily battle to not look (not cut, not vomit or stand in front of a mirror and pinch skin).

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Paul Byerly October 21, 2016 at 10:46 am

@Libl – I appreciate that you see degrees in this. Few things in life are one size fits all, and porn use is no different.
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ted October 21, 2016 at 12:05 pm

What seems to be missed by all you ladies, is that porn addiction is really no different at it’s heart than any other addiction. If you don’t deal with the underlying causes of the addiction, you can never be free, no matter the level of your addiction. An excellent book if you truly want to understand is Surfing For God. If you”re unwilling to understand then nothing anyone says makes any difference.

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K October 21, 2016 at 12:21 pm

@Paul,
When it comes to porn use and how women should react, we somewhat (mostly) disagree. My comment is not aimed to try to change your mind or to have some big debate about it. When it comes to triggers and the motivations you discuss for men using porn, we do agree. My comment is not discounting those points. Understanding the triggers for porn use is necessary for wives – for their own healing and to help their husbands. As a woman who has dealt with this issue, my comment really is for others in my situation. Finding the right help was so important. Advice you gave me was very helpful for understanding my husband and his motivation. Others sources were much more helpful in understanding what I was going through. Both were very helpful, so I’m not in any way discounting what you are trying to here. It is just as important for women to find the right help for themselves as it is for their husbands to find the help they need to become free of porn.

With that disclaimer, here goes:
“If your husband is using porn, your very natural reaction to that is just adding to his reasons to use porn. I’m not a woman, so I can’t imagine what it would take to react differently, but I do know it would make a huge difference for most men.”

Wives are not responsible for their husband’s porn use. Every time someone looks at porn they are making a choice. Yes, triggers are there and a wife’s reaction to finding out about the porn use may cause triggers to occur. Regardless, the ultimate choice and responsibility is the husbands. Before or after disclosure, a wife is never responsible for her husband’s porn use.

This revelation can shake a women’s entire world. Her world has changed dramatically overnight when she learns of porn use. She begins to question her life. Her sense of safety is often gone in an instant. It is a traumatic event for many women. Wives need as much understanding and support as husbands need. Telling women to change their reactions, which are perfectly normal, does not help the woman heal. “Snooping” is a perfectly normal response and doesn’t mean the woman is crazy. It means she feels unsafe. Sometimes boundaries are necessary. Sometimes they are not. Every situation is different and should be treated as such.

Shaming and guilting a husband will not help him stop and it will not help the situation. But, wives have every right to be hurt and upset by this revelation. They should not be made to feel responsible for his past or continued choices. Or, made to feel like they shouldn’t be experiencing their feelings. Some men will have an easier road to becoming free of porn than others. Some wives will have an easier time dealing with the fallout than others. Both spouses need to get help throughout the process.

I’ve mentioned New Life Ministries here many times. IMO, they have a better grasp on how wives are affected than most other sources I’ve come across. Their resources helped tremendously in my healing and they helped my husband better understand what I was going through. Along with you, Paul, they also helped me better understand my husband’s porn use.

This is a two-way street. Both husbands and wives need to gain a better understanding of what the other is facing in order to help each other and heal.

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Paul Byerly October 21, 2016 at 1:49 pm

@K – Your last paragraph hits what most concerns me in all this. I see two very different understandings of porn – one male, and one female. Each group repeats their version as if it’s gospel truth while dismissing the other gender’s understanding as selfish and self-serving. It seems we are moving further and further from common ground and I fear both men and women are believing and functioning from things that have nothing to do with truth and reality.
This can get crazy. Telling a woman not to do what comes naturally may seem wrong, but what if what comes naturally is horribly destructive to her husband, her marriage, and her family? What if a woman throws her husband out of the house and files for divorce because she learns he looked at porn years ago? I’ve seen this happen. I’ve seen men denied access to their children for something that has not happened in years. This hurts everyone, including the children.
I see this as a result of a woman believing something about porn that is not true. Looking at porn does not turn a man into a child molester. But if a woman has been told it does, then she will act on that wrong information and cause all kinds of harm. And yes, the same happens on the men’s side. Plenty of men believe the lie that porn doesn’t affect their sexuality with their wife, and this may make them more willing to keep using porn or to use it more often or look at harder porn.
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K October 21, 2016 at 3:34 pm

Wow! I’m not at all sure how you got some of that out of anything I said. My last paragraph was meant sincerely and literally. I think both women and men need to gain a better understanding of how porn use affects the other gender.

As a wife, understanding about triggers and reasons for porn use, helps me and my husband. It is also helpful to know his porn use is not caused by my looks or shortcomings. This understanding helps both of us.

I think it’s equally as important for men to understand how this behavior affects their wife. They need to know her perpensity to snoop is a result of feeling unsafe. They need to know things they can do to help her feel more secure. They need to understand trust has been broken and they have to help build it back.

The examples you gave are quite extreme. Without knowing all of the circumstances, I can’t really comment on them. I do think your view is skewed to male side of this and doesn’t leave much room for the wife to feel hurt or wounded. You also don’t seem to believe men should have to face any natural consequences of their actions. (I get this from this post and others you’ve written on the topic.)

There are surely wives who overreact to their own unique situation. Just as there are surely husbands who don’t care how their behavior affects their wife and children. Both of these scenarios are destructive to the individuals, the marriage and the children.

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Paul Byerly October 21, 2016 at 4:35 pm

@K – I didn’t get it from what you said, I thought your final paragraph addressed what I went on to say. ” I think both women and men need to gain a better understanding of how porn use affects the other gender.” is the solution to what I said is a problem. Sorry I was not clear.

I generally tell men their sin has cost them the right to complain about what they see as unfair treatment. The problem is when that treatment goes on forever. If I were a woman talking to a woman who was doing what I see as unfair I’d let her know that. As a man, I don’t think I will ever have a place to say that. I often wonder if women have a voice like this to help them find balance, and all too often I see no evidence of such a voice.

The thing about trust is checking up on someone doesn’t rebuild it. Checking up says “I don’t trust you.” I get why this is unavoidable, but it’s not a place to stay. A season of checking up may make the woman feel better, but it in no way rebuilds trust – that’s a different step. If a woman gets stuck on checking, or a husband thinks his wife’s checking is a solution, then the couple is stuck.

Some treat porn differently than broken trust in any other place. Some see porn as the unforgivable sin. These are problems that hurt marriages.

Yes, my example is extreme – and I’ve only seen it a few times. But I’ve seen things that edge on that far more often, and while less drastic they create similar problems and obstacles. The extreme can help us understand something usually seen to a lesser degree.

I’m sure we are both skewed towards our own gender. I’ve done a great deal to understand how this is for women, buy I’m still a man. The problem is I see a lot of things that don’t add up. 1) A woman used porn in the past and has stopped. Then she finds out her husband used it and has stopped and she treats his sin as far worse than her committing the same sin. 2) I keep mentioning the prevalence of women using porn in comments, and I don’t think anyone has ever addressed that. Yes, more men than women do it, but the gap is closing very quickly. The silence seems to be giving women a pass. If a woman is under 40 odds are a majority of her female peers have looked at porn, on their own and for themselves, multiple times this year. If all her friends are serious Christians the number is closer to a third. Why no outcry about this? Is a woman using porn less horrible than a man doing it?

I do think men should face consequences. I also think many of those consequences are an unavoidable function of the sin, and nothing the man or his wife does will change those. But I am not in favour of a wife punishing her husband. I realise most women would say this is not what they’re doing, but sometimes it looks a lot like punishment. No one here would say sexual refusal justifies porn use, but it seems some think porn use justifies sexual refusal. I’m not talking about a reasonable time of abstinence while the wife deals with her injury; I’m talking about the wife who is still refusing sex months later even though she has no reason to think he’s looked at porn again. The Bible calls what she’s doing sin, and she is justifying it as a consequence of his porn use. I know this is not always the case, and probably not the norm, but it happens.

I could tell you stories all day long of men who have been horrible about porn. All that would do is make some here even more angry at men. My reason for talking about the women who don’t react well is to help avoid this in the future. Two wrongs don’t make a right. I’m all about what he did is being wrong, and the same is true for virtually every woman here. I’m just trying to show the other side – the side that usually gets a pass from women.

Does that make sense?

BTW, I really appreciate your time on this. I’m trying to understand so I can better help men understand and do what they should to help repair their marriage. I’ve talked to a lot of guys who would cut of their left arm if it would help. These guys want to do what’s right, but they have no idea what that looks like. Most of them are stuck at “wait for her, and if she never gets past it, that’s your fault.”
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K October 24, 2016 at 1:14 pm

There is so much here to comment on. Since brevity is not my strong suit and there are so many related, yet different, topics here, I’m going to make individual comments for each one. Hopefully, this will make them easier to read and follow. I truly hope this will help you gain understanding about how a wife is impacted and responds to porn use.

Regarding women using porn. I don’t disagree with your statistics, but I also can’t explain them. I don’t fully understand why women use porn. I don’t know if the reasons are the same as for men or not. It does make sense to me that the stats are higher for younger women. I think societies and the media’s stance on all things sexual has a lot to do with this. The younger demographic seems to have a different view of sex because of this. In general, I think younger women/girls view sex as being strictly for pleasure and, in some cases, being primarily about male pleasure. I view porn as being geared toward men with little to none of it being about a woman’s pleasure or about intimacy in any way. For these reasons, I don’t understand why women use porn.

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Paul Byerly October 24, 2016 at 7:22 pm

@K – One of the growing areas of porn is porn by and for women. It’s supposed to be porn with a plot line, but from what I’ve read about it the sex is still just as graphic and unrealistic. I am also reading that whereas female porn use used to be mostly something done with a male partner now most of it is done solo – usually as a part of masturbation.

I don’t know why it’s changing, but it is. I don’t know what’s going on in the minds of these women. I can’t imagine it’s the same things happening for men, but I don’t know.
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K October 24, 2016 at 1:54 pm

Topic: Checkin-up or Snooping

“The thing about trust is checking up on someone doesn’t rebuild it. Checking up says “I don’t trust you.” I get why this is unavoidable, but it’s not a place to stay. A season of checking up may make the woman feel better, but it in no way rebuilds trust – that’s a different step. If a woman gets stuck on checking, or a husband thinks his wife’s checking is a solution, then the couple is stuck.”

There are different reasons women feel the need to “snoop”. In a way, it is about trust, but not really in the way men think of it. And, “snooping” or “checking up” after time has passed and trust is being or has been rebuilt doesn’t necessarily mean the wife doesn’t trust him. It means something has triggered her to feel insecure or unsafe. Essentially, the reasons for “snooping” mostly boil down to a search for security. When a husband understands this, it helps him not to be defensive about it, which ultimately helps the wife feel more safe and secure. If a husband is defensive about this, it signals to the wife that he is hiding something and she should be concerned.

Initially, “snooping” is likely about trying to gather information so you can understand exactly how bad the problem is and exactly what you’re dealing with. (This was the case for me.) Some women may be trying to gather evidence to confirm suspicions they’ve had before learning the truth. If their husband is still denying things, this motivation is just being fueled. Mostly, women are in shock and have an immense fear of what they are facing. So, the “snooping” or “checking up” is about this fear and a desire to understand how bad the problem is.

After time has passed, “snooping” is primarily about not feeling safe. It’s easy for someone, especially husbands, to think there should some type of time limit on this, but that’s not really fair or how it works in real life. It also has nothing to do with forgiveness as many would like to think.

Here’s an analogy: Someone breaks into your house. You are in total shock and can’t believe this has happened. You once felt so safe in your home. Now, you find yourself waking up in the middle of the night needing to go check all the locks and the alarm system. You can’t sleep unless you double and triple check everything. This goes on for about 6 months. Then, things settle down and you start to feel safe again. Now, you can sleep through the night without feeling the need to get up and double check the locks and alarm. After almost two years, you’re doing great and feeling safer than ever. You haven’t checked the locks after going to bed in more than a year. Then, you find out that a house down the street has been broken into. This scares you, and you find yourself waking up again in the middle of the night needing to check the locks. You do this for a week or so and then start to feel safe again so the need to double check the locks every night subsides.

In the example above, the person experienced a traumatic event. Their initial reaction to check the locks when they woke up is perfectly normal. Once they began to feel safe this need to “check everything” subsided. Then a few years later, something triggered this fear again. Once the person realized they really didn’t need to feel this insecure, they were then able to sleep better. This is what’s really going on with the whole “snooping” thing. The more secure a wife feels, the less need she has to “snoop” or “check up”.

Husbands can help tremendously with this by being understanding. If he is really trying to change and make things better for his wife, he will understand her need to snoop and not become defensive. He will talk to her about what is happening to make her feel unsafe to the degree that she feels the need to snoop. He’ll realize it’s not as much about trust as he thinks it is. It’s often more about something that has triggered her to feel insecure. Finding out what that is and addressing it, will help her feel safe and alleviate the need to “snoop”.

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Paul Byerly October 24, 2016 at 7:27 pm

@K – Thanks for your thoughts on Checkin-up or Snooping. I hear what you’re saying – but when it goes on too long it affects the husband in a bad way. “Trust but verify is garbage and always will be. If you trust you don’t need to verify, and if you need to verify you don’t need to trust. When the amount of verifying seems to have no relationship to how well a man is doing it becomes a problem.
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K October 24, 2016 at 10:31 pm

If you think what I’m saying is “trust but verify”, you really don’t understand. I’m not in any way saying “trust but verify”. I understand how this gets confused with trust, but it’s really not about trust.

A woman’s draw to snoop has NOTHING to do with how well her husband is actually doing. It’s not about the husband’s behavior change with regard to porn use. In fact, in some ways, it’s not about her husband at all. It’s about a deep seated fear that is usually triggered by something. Whatever the trigger is, needs to be addressed in order to help subside her fear.

The fear (sense of insecurity) is a visceral reaction. When it happens to me, it’s something I actually feel in my body. My husband can’t completely prevent this from happening to me, but he can help when it does.

An example:
Several months ago, my husband got a new work phone. I didn’t really pay attention to the phone until he asked me to bring it to him one night. When I picked it up, I noticed the password was now 6 digits instead of 4 digits. I literally had a small panic attack. My stomach fell and I couldn’t breath. This reaction was completely from intense fear. I had no control over it. My husband saw my reaction asked what was wrong. I asked why he changed his password without telling me. He explained the phone required a 6-digit password when he got it and he forgot to tell me about it. He immediately gave me the new password and had me use it to unlock his phone. He sat next to me and asked if there was anything I wanted to check. And, he apologized for forgetting to tell me about the new password.

He recognized my reaction wasn’t about trust. In fact, it’s because I do trust he’s not using porn now, I was able to believe not telling me about the password was just an oversight. My reaction was about fear triggered by something I had no control over. His response made me feel safe. It showed me he is being transparent and not purposely trying to hide anything. It helped continue to build trust rather than tear it down.

I’m not in constant state of needing to check up on him or snoop. But, we both understand I could be triggered to do so in the future. If and when triggers happen, we know we need to deal with whatever is going on in the relationship to foster insecurity. Thankfully, my husband understands this because it is a huge part of MY healing. This is about the wife, not the husband.

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K October 24, 2016 at 2:30 pm

Topic: Trust

“Some treat porn differently than broken trust in any other place. Some see porn as the unforgivable sin. These are problems that hurt marriages.”

Trust is hairy and not clear cut. If someone truly feels porn is an unforgivable sin, this is a major problem. However, I’m not sure if that’s really the case even where it may seem like it is.

Hard truth: After porn use, trust will never be the same. And, even bigger, it shouldn’t be the same again.

Once a betrayal like this has taken place, the naive trust which many wives have is gone forever. That trust which believes their husband is not capable of betrayal or of hurting them this deeply is gone.

The truth is, I can and do trust my husband. I do trust that he is not currently using porn. The truth is I will never blindly trust him again. My eyes are open now. He has proven that he has the capacity to betray me, hurt me and make a fool out of me. That fact can never be taken back. From now forward, I will work to trust again. I will also keep my eyes open to make sure we are both doing everything possible to prevent a betrayal like this from happening again.

In Christian circles, we tend to want to tie forgiveness and trust together. If you forgive, you must blindly trust again. If you don’t blindly trust, that means you haven’t really forgiven. That’s not true and not healthy. Blindly trusting and not believing it could happen again are not healthy for either party. I’m not talking about using this as an excuse for doing things to hurt or punish your spouse. That would mean you haven’t completely forgiven. I’m talking about being real about what trust will look like in the future.

Simply not continuing the behavior is not enough to rebuild trust. Many think that’s all that’s necessary, but that won’t do it. Rebuilding trust means my husband is completely transparent with me. It means he doesn’t leave places for me to question his behavior or his honesty when discussing things. He knows anything he does that’s not completely transparent only gives me reason not to trust him. Thankfully, my husband got this early on and tries to be as transparent as possible. He accepts my need to talk about and question things even as time passes. All of this makes me trust him more.

Rebuilding trust after a betrayal like this takes time. Expecting it to happen within a certain time frame is not fair or prudent. And, once trust is rebuilt, it’s still possible for a wife to experience triggers that cause her to question things. This doesn’t mean she isn’t making an effort to trust or that trust hasn’t been rebuilt.

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Paul Byerly October 24, 2016 at 7:32 pm

@K – TRUST: I agree forgiveness and trust are not the same. And I’m for eyes open trust. You say expecting it to be rebuilt in a certain time frame isn’t fair. Okay, but saying one still needs time three years later is also not fair. I’ve come to the conclusion some women decide they will never trust again because that will keep them from getting hurt again. Aside from being wrong, it’s not going to protect them from getting hurt.

I guess the issue then is if a woman really wants to trust again or not.
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K October 25, 2016 at 12:50 am

Trust – “You say expecting it to be rebuilt in a certain time frame isn’t fair. Okay, but saying one still needs time three years later is also not fair.”

I’d say a lot of information is necessary to determine the problem if a wife still can’t trust 3 years later. You want to make this cut and dry. It’s not. In the article, you said porn use is complex. Trauma has occurred. So healing for the wife is also complex. A husband simply stopping his porn use is not enough to rebuild trust. Rebuilding trust requires effort by both spouses.

What is the husband doing or not doing that could help the wife trust again? Is he being transparent or vague when his wife asks questions? Has he given full disclosure or is he holding things back? Is he taking responsibility for his recovery? Is he sharing everything his wife needs to know about his recovery? Has his behavior changed in all the ways his wife needs to feel secure? Has he relapsed? If so, has he been honest about it? What is doing to identify his triggers?

Is the wife doing everything she needs to do to heal? Is she going to counseling? Is she identifying her needs and communicating them clearly to her husband? How is she working towards forgiveness and trust?

It is possible for a man to go 3 years without watching porn and then have a trigger and/or relapse. It is also possible for a wife who is trying to trust to not completely trust 3 years later. This could be somewhat of a self-preservation thing, but it could also be because she is not getting a need met from her husband that would help her heal and trust.

“I’ve come to the conclusion some women decide they will never trust again because that will keep them from getting hurt again. Aside from being wrong, it’s not going to protect them from getting hurt.”

I’d guess there probably are women who resist trusting to prevent hurt. However, I believe this thinking on your part also demonstrates your lack of understanding of the trauma that has occurred to the wife. And, I don’t use the word trauma lightly. It even took me a while to understand this was a traumatic event.

After almost two years from disclosure and our sexless marriage coming to a head, my counselor said this to me just last week. “The depths of your hurt and rejection are still being uncovered. It’s like peeling back the layers of an onion, and we still haven’t reached the center.”

When you understand that level of damage to the individual and relationship has been done, it makes it easier to understand it could very well take 3 years or more to completely trust again. It is an extremely complex issue without a simple solution.

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K October 24, 2016 at 4:05 pm

Topic: Forgiveness

Forgiveness for porn use or other sexual sin is not as simple as it is portrayed. Forgiveness, like grief, is a process and involves stages. One usually doesn’t arrive at forgiveness overnight. One can decide early on they are going to forgive, but the actual act takes time and work.

Forgiveness means letting go of the debt owed you by the person you need to forgive. It means you no longer require that the person do something to make things right. It means you let them off the hook for the debt and you’re not motivated to hurt them in return.

With sexual betrayal, forgiveness is not a one time event. I’ve forgiven my husband for his porn use. But almost two years after disclosure, I’m still learning things I need to forgive as a result of his porn use. For example, the other day I was talking to a friend. She shared things about her marriage. I wanted to tell her about my situation because I thought it might help her. However, I know my husband would not want me to tell this individual. I’ve been put in a situation where I have I have to choose between being authentic with my friend or breaking my husband’s trust. So it’s something else I have to forgive — feeling like I can’t be totally authentic with everyone.

There are many “smaller” things like this that have to be forgiven. I’m not sure when I’ll stop discovering these types of things that also require forgiveness.

Another misconception about forgiveness is that it means you won’t be angry any more. This just isn’t true. Releasing someone from the responsibility of a debt they can never pay back doesn’t keep you from still feeling anger about what they did. It’s possible for both of these things to occur together. I’m still hurt and angry at things my husband did. It’s not as intense as when it was fresh and it doesn’t linger the way it did. But, some anger is still there. That doesn’t mean I haven’t forgiven him. When something new comes up that I have to forgive around the porn use, I choose to forgive even though I may still be hurt and angry about it.

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K October 24, 2016 at 4:26 pm

Topic: Right to Privacy

Innately, humans have a need for privacy. There are things we will never tell our parents. There are things we will never tell our kids. There are things we will never tell our close friends. We all hold things back, even from people we love. We do this for many reasons. Some of the reasons are valid, some are not. But, we would probably all argue that we should keep some things private.

However, what does “right to privacy” mean in marriage? Should it be treated the same as it is with other relationships?

When we get married, we become one with our spouse. We are joining with the one person we vow to become intimate with in every way. How does an individual “right to privacy” supersede becoming one? How does individual “right to privacy” foster intimacy? How does individual “right to privacy” exemplify what God intended marriage to be?

I’d argue if a spouse feels they have “a right to privacy” and their spouse is violating it, they either have something to hide and/or they have an intimacy problem. Sharing passwords, computers, phones, email, etc. with a spouse should be the norm, not a violation of privacy. Keeping things “private” does not foster oneness or intimacy in marriage. It hinders it.

Here’s an example I think you can relate to. I think you believe if a spouse is masturbating, they should tell their spouse about it and the reasons why. It’s not necessarily a sin for a spouse to masturbate, and there might even be a valid and good reason for it. But, hiding it is hurting intimacy in the marriage. To know and be fully known, the spouse whose masturbating should share this information. This knowledge would foster intimacy even if their spouse isn’t completely open to the idea. Hiding it, just hurts intimacy in the present and in the long run.

I believe the same is true when it comes to “right to privacy”. My husband and I both gave up our “right to privacy” the day we married. Otherwise, we will never be one as God intends.

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K October 24, 2016 at 4:31 pm

I forgot this important point. Sharing passwords, computers, email, phones, etc. does not keep someone from cheating or porn use. Believing it does is a false sense of security. I know this because my husband and I have always shared all of these things and he used porn for years without my knowledge. Where there is a will, there is a way. And, today’s technology makes it easier and easier to hide things.

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Paul Byerly October 24, 2016 at 7:35 pm

@K – As to privacy I agree with you – I have no right to privacy with my wife. But I know most men AND WOMEN do not feel this way. If a couple have both felt some privacy was acceptable it’s a problem if any sin results in privacy remaining for one but not the other.
Paul Byerly recently posted…The Couple That Reads Together…My Profile

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K October 25, 2016 at 1:08 am

“I have no right to privacy with my wife. But I know most men AND WOMEN do not feel this way.”

For clarification, I didn’t exclude myself or women in general from the privacy issue. If anyone is holding on to “a right for privacy” in their marriage, they are wrong and should be told such. You can’t have an intimate marriage if either party is holding on to “a right for privacy”.

“If a couple have both felt some privacy was acceptable it’s a problem if any sin results in privacy remaining for one but not the other.”

Absolutely, this would be a problem!

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K October 24, 2016 at 4:51 pm

Topic: Sexual Refusal

“No one here would say sexual refusal justifies porn use, but it seems some think porn use justifies sexual refusal.”

I have a unique perspective on this since I have experienced both sexual refusal and porn use by my husband. I don’t think sexual refusal justifies porn use or an affair, but I do think it makes them understandable. To clarify, I’m talking about sexual refusal resulting in sexless marriages. I do know the temptations that come with outright refusal of sex over long periods of time. I think very few men or women in these situations for any extended period of time go free of temptation. This is something else I’ve had to forgive my husband for — putting me in a situation to face a type of temptation that disgusts me.

“I’m not talking about a reasonable time of abstinence while the wife deals with her injury; I’m talking about the wife who is still refusing sex months later even though she has no reason to think he’s looked at porn again. The Bible calls what she’s doing sin, and she is justifying it as a consequence of his porn use. I know this is not always the case, and probably not the norm, but it happens.”

As I say often, every situation is different. It’s too cut and dry to say she’s still refusing sex months later without knowing everything else that’s going on. What is he doing to show her that he is no longer involved in porn? How deep were her wounds? (This may affect the timeline). Expecting everyone to abide by some arbitrary timeline is not acknowledging the damage that was done or what may be ongoing. I’m not talking about ongoing porn use, rather the steps the husband is taking to rebuild trust and make his wife feel safe.

I DO NOT condone sexual refusal, especially as a form of punishment. However, I do think there are reasons why some couples should abstain for a time period. And, I understand why some wives would have a hard time resuming sexual intimacy. I also feel strongly the wife should be seeking help to get past these issues. Just as the husband should be receiving the help he needs to overcome the porn use.

If the wife is refusing sex as a punishment, she is sinning. But, just because it may appear that way to the husband, doesn’t always mean that’s what’s happening.

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K October 26, 2016 at 12:44 pm

@Paul,

“BTW, I really appreciate your time on this. I’m trying to understand so I can better help men understand and do what they should to help repair their marriage. I’ve talked to a lot of guys who would cut of their left arm if it would help. These guys want to do what’s right, but they have no idea what that looks like. Most of them are stuck at “wait for her, and if she never gets past it, that’s your fault.”

Our conversation here is bothering me because I don’t feel I’ve done a good job explaining what I was trying to explain to you. The paragraph above is why I made my previous comments. You said you want to understand better so you can help men “who would give their left arm” to make their marriage better. I gave examples of things that may bother men and tried to explain why a wife would react the way she does. I neglected to try to explain what really happens when she finds out. So, I’m going to take you at your word that you do want to understand better and give it one more shot. I hope you will read this with an open mind.
NOTE #1: I’m not in any way trying to dismiss how men feel or their struggles. I’m trying to explain what is happening with the wife and why things aren’t as black and white as you appear to think. Much of what you perceive as punishment and unfair treatment is more likely a natural reaction. If you can begin to see this, you’ll understand better that there are things husbands can do rather than just “wait on her”. There are concrete actions he can take to help repair the relationship. That doesn’t mean it will always work or be quick, though. I’m also not discounting there probably are some women who don’t want to get past the hurt and work on the marriage.
NOTE #2: There are so many sources that can help explain this much better than I can.

This is much more than JUST the sexual sin, but the fact that the sin was sexual in nature makes it more hurtful. BETRAYAL has taken place. There have been numerous lies, deceit, manipulations, denial, etc. Often times, gas lighting (where the offender does and says things to make their spouse feel like they are crazy for having suspicions) has also take place.

When a wife learns about the sexual sin, her whole life comes into question. She realizes she has been lied to and deceived for _____ years (fill in the blank – 1, 3, 5, 8, 10 years or more). Her whole world comes crashing down and she doesn’t even know what’s real anymore. The person who promised to love her, cherish her, honor her and protect her has just confessed (or been caught) to doing the opposite of these things. The person she trusts more than anyone in the world has just admitted she’s been wrong to trust them.

Her story (to borrow the phrase from Jason Martinkis) is no longer what she thought it was. All of her memories come into question. — “That time you missed the ballgame because you were not feeling well was really to watch porn.” “When you would wake up at 3:00 am because you had insomnia, wasn’t true. It was really so you could watch porn.” Every memory for the last ____ years is now up for grabs. What was true? What was not true? How can or will she ever know what is true? All of the these questions are contemplated and obsessed over because she doesn’t know what has been real and what hasn’t.

She realizes that not only can’t she trust her husband, but she can’t trust herself. How could she not know? How could she have believed he’d never hurt her? Why didn’t she trust her gut that time xyz happened? All of her judgement and instincts come into question.

FEAR is her new normal. Fear of how bad the problem is. Fear of not trusting anyone or anything ever again, including herself. Fear of the unknown journey. Fear of being a fool. Fear of it happening again. Fear of being duped again. Fear of possibly losing her marriage. Fear of whether or not he can overcome his problem/addiction. Fear of whether or not SHE can overcome this. Fear of people finding out. Fear of not being able to talk to friends and family about her pain. Fear of EVERYTHING.

She was supposed to feel safe with the man who promised to love and protect her. She no longer feels safe or secure. Her whole world is now out of control. She feels completely foolish for having believed HER husband would never ________ (fill in the blank – watch porn, go to a strip club, lie to her, purposefully deceive her, etc.)

Some women question what they’ve done to cause this. Is is because they aren’t pretty enough, good enough in bed, nice enough, or just enough? This is what your message is trying to prevent, but it’s often unavoidable. Even women, who haven’t had self esteem issues in the past, may question these things. You’ve said before you think this more about the woman and her own issues. No question, some women already have plenty of issues in this area. But, finding out your husband has been involved in sexual sin will likely cause you to doubt things and/or make you uncomfortable being naked around him. (I do think your message can help mitigate this. But, it won’t prevent the thoughts and feelings from occurring altogether.)

These are some of the things going on when a wife finds out about porn use. Everything I described is a perfectly normal response to BETRAYAL. Asking a woman not feel or experience these emotions is not right and will only make things worse in the long run.

I’m sorry if these reactions/feelings make things worse for the husband. If a husband truly wants to get free of porn and wants to repair his marriage, he needs to understand he has committed a betrayal and his wife is responding the way people who have been betrayed respond. She needs healing from the betrayal. There are things he can do to help her heal. There are also things he can do to make things worse for her. The more he understands about this, the more he can help her. The more he can help her heal and overcome her fears, the more able she will be to help him.

Sorry for the long comment, but I really do hope this helps you and other men understand better what is happening with the wife.

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Paul Byerly October 29, 2016 at 11:32 am

@K – Been sitting on this waiting for enough time to give it what it deserves.

You said she doubts herself, and I think that is HUGE. I think it drives most of the rest of what you said. I also think for most couples much of that is not reality. I realise if she thinks or feels it then it has become reality, but for the man who is being accused of things he never thought or did, it’s not reality.

Imagine if every time a wife said no to sex her husband was convinced she was having an affair. I recently had a fellow posting comments on old threads over on TGH (the system blocked them, but I saw them) who was saying if a woman is not having sex with her husband she must be getting it some place else. He not only believes this, he is telling other men it’s a fact. He was telling them how to check up on her so they could catch her. If some fellow believes this it makes a bad situation worse. I fear much of what you said above is like this – theoretically possible but not the norm. If a woman assumes her husband is this and he is not then marriage is all but doomed. To her, his denial just proves he’s still hiding things. His only way out is to lie and admit to things that are not true because nothing else will convince her that he’s being honest!

I’m not trying to downplay her hurt. She has been wronged and she should feel hurt. But it seems many women see things that are not there, and this leaves her husband stuck in an alternate reality where he has not say and no ability to help. She assumes he is a master deceiver. She never knew he was doing porn in the past, so how would she know he’s doing it now? Snooping doesn’t prove he’s not doing it, it might mean he’s just good at hiding it. She can never be sure he’s not doing porn, and nothing he says or does will ever change that. She won’t trust him till he proves he can be trusted, but nothing he does can prove that to her. It’s a catch 22.

A big part of this is men and women have created two different versions of what porn use is. Neither of them is right or accurate, and they are both so far from reality that it’s impossible for most couples to even see common ground. He makes it smaller than it is, while she makes it bigger than it is. He takes what she says as proof she is over reacting which gives reason to feel nothing he does will matter. She takes what he says as proof he is not taking it seriously, which encourages her to keep feeling things that are not true.

BTW, you said, “you’ll understand better that there are things husbands can do rather than just “wait on her””. But I didn’t see any clear actions for men to take.

Bottom Line: I understand, as best a man can, why this hurts women so much. But that understanding doesn’t give me any words to help men make it better. It feels like she has all the power, and that’s never a good thing for anyone – especially when the one with the power is hurt and scared.

How do we get men and women off their skewed versions of this so they can actually work at healing?
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K October 29, 2016 at 8:10 pm

@Paul,
Thanks for your thoughtful reply. There is SOME truth to much of what you said. This can make it harder to see what’s really taking place.

The problem is much of what you say and believe is based on rationalization rather than a psychological perspective. When trauma/betrayal occurs, the brain is affected significantly. The way a wife reacts to this trauma is based on physical and chemical changes that are taking place in her brain. The amygdala has been activated by very strong emotions and trauma so now emotions will be tied to memories. When the amygdala is activated, memories are much stronger and are now connected to emotions. This is huge for understanding future responses and why years later things will still trigger the MEMORIES AND EMOTIONS to come flooding back. It will FEEL like it just happened when the trauma could have occurred 20 years ago.

I’d say the MOST significant thing I said, was the paragraph about fear. FEAR IS the main driver for most reactions a wife has. Think about what happens to the brain when we experience intense fear. The amygdala is activated, the brain is flooded with chemicals and the frontal lobe shuts down. We are now in “Flight or Fight” or “Survival” mode. When this happens we lose the ability to think and function rationally. We begin doing anything we can to gain safety. As we gain control and begin to feel some safety, the brain starts to calm down. Once the brain calms down, our frontal lobe comes back online and we begin to gain back rational thought.

If a husband only understands this, he will be ahead of the game. Every move he makes should be aimed to help alleviate his wife’s fear and make her feel safe again. This will take a lot of time, effort and patience, but it is THE BEST thing he can do. (I’ll give some concrete examples of what this looks like later.)

What you say about facts being distorted (paraphrasing) is true and is a problem. There will always be discrepancies between the facts and what the wife thinks went on. The facts are important because they dictate the wife’s story. She really needs to know what went on in her life. But, there will be things she thinks happened that didn’t or she views differently than how they actually happened. The more a wife disagrees with facts the husband is telling her, the more emotional she becomes. Husbands tend to think the wife will feel better if she just believes the facts. So he becomes determined to tell her the facts the way they happened. The more determined he is, the more it seems to the wife he is being defensive. This leads to heartache for both of them. What the wife really needs, even though she may not realize it, is empathy for her pain. The husband needs to stop trying to convince her of the facts and become empathic to the pain she is experiencing. “Honey, I’m sorry you don’t believe what I’m telling you. I understand how hard it must be for you to believe me. I’ve caused you pain and uncertainty and I’m so sorry.” will go a lot farther in helping her calm down and feel safe than continuing to defend the facts. I can attest from personal experience this is true.
Jason Martinkis has an excellent video about this at tv.newlife.com, called Couples in Healing Process. Here is the link, but I’m not sure if it will work. You may have to sign up for the service to be able to view it. https://tv.newlife.com/#/videos/couples_in_the_healing_process-3067

If you understand what is taking place in the brain when the wife experiences fear, snooping begins to make sense. Snooping is the wife’s attempt to feel safe. Fear has caused the brain to flood with chemicals that drive her into “fight or flight” mode. Snooping helps her gain a “sense” of control, which in turn, makes her feel safer. A husband can help tremendously with this by having an open door policy where nothing is off limits any time for any reason.

In the example I gave in a previous comment about my husband and his phone, I described his response when he realized I was having a panic attack. He sat with me and INSISTED I unlock the phone with his new password. HE asked if I wanted to check his history or anything else. This made me feel safe. It reduced the adrenaline that was flowing and calmed me down. That’s why I was able to trust his word that he just forgot to tell me about the new password. At that point, I had no need to snoop. If he had gotten defensive insisting he just forgot to tell me, my fear would have increased rather than subsided. You see, he would have been telling me THE TRUTH, BUT it would have sent up red flags that he was hiding something instead of reducing the fear that triggered my panic attack. My frontal lobe was shut down at that time. I wouldn’t have been able to believe him if he was being defensive because I wasn’t able to think rationally in that state. It probably would have made me feel a need to snoop because I didn’t feel safe.
Here’s a link to another Jason Martinkis video about Snooping. I hope you will be able to watch these videos. He explains it very well.
https://tv.newlife.com/#/videos/snooping_after_betrayal-1129

Something I’ve mentioned, but not really talked about are triggers. This is huge. The wife will experience lots of triggers! This will make things hard for the husband. I will share more about this later if you’re interested.

“BTW, you said, “you’ll understand better that there are things husbands can do rather than just “wait on her””. But I didn’t see any clear actions for men to take.”

I purposely left out the actionable items because the post was getting too long. And, I don’t think they really matter unless one believes trauma and betrayal have taken place. I’ve mentioned some things in this post, but will make another post with a list of things. I probably won’t do this until tomorrow though. I’m exhausted right now.

An aside: This post and comments have been huge triggers for me. I’ve had a very tough, yet good, week. Good because I’m learning things about myself and things I need to tell my husband about my healing. They have also made me even more grateful that my husband has been so caring and understanding about my healing and is working so hard to make changes and meet my needs. Even though we have had some very tough times over the last few years, we continue to grow closer every day. If we could go back and change things, I would. I would never choose this path, but it is the path we’re on. I’m grateful I am on this unfortunate journey with MY husband.

“How do we get men and women off their skewed versions of this so they can actually work at healing?”
Education. Educate ourselves about what is really happening and then share with others. Finding the right sources of information are critical. I can’t speak highly enough about New Life Ministries. They are Christians, they are trained in Psychology, Sexual Addictions and Trauma and many of them have experienced these issues first hand. They truly are experts when it comes to the affects of porn use on men and their wives. My husband and I watch the videos together and discuss them. This has helped both of us tremendously.

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Paul Byerly October 30, 2016 at 10:20 am

K – I’m fascinated with the biochemical workings of the brain and have done a good deal of reading on it. I have a pretty good grasp on what is happening in the woman’s brain and why. My concern is some of what is happening is based on wrong information. Understanding why her brain is doing what it’s doing does not change the fact it is doing it based on a lie the woman has believed.

Let me try this:
Women tell themselves, and each other, porn is about or means 20 things. But 5 of those things is never true for any man using porn, and 3 are only true for a very few men. Of the remaining 12, 4 to 8 are true, to some degree, for the average husband who has used porn.
Men tell themselves, and each other, porn is about or means 5 things. They have left out several things it means, and a couple of the things are false – like “I would stop if my wife had sex more often”.
So husband and wife both believe things that are not true and fail to believe things that are true.

The real problem I hope to do something about here is the propagation of the false beliefs men and women tell their same-sex friends. This is hugely destructive and it needs to stop. Women support their friend who has caught her husband looking at porn by reinforcing lies she believes, and men support their friend who got caught by reinforcing lies he believes. No one wins, everyone loses, and marriages suffer.

BTW, I’m sorry this has been difficult for you. I appreciate your continuing, and I’m glad it has brought about more healing for you.
Paul Byerly recently posted…The Woman He Gave You…My Profile

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K October 30, 2016 at 2:24 pm

@Paul,
“I’m fascinated with the biochemical workings of the brain and have done a good deal of reading on it. I have a pretty good grasp on what is happening in the woman’s brain and why.”
I know this from things you’ve said in other posts and from how much you understand the male brain on porn. That’s why I’ve been surprised at some of the advice you give women. Not the advice you give in regards to the reasons for porn use, but advice on how they should respond.

I agree 100% about the lies both women and men believe about porn use. I don’t agree with your thinking if women just understand the facts about porn use, they will not feel so hurt and won’t react they way they do. If there had not been so many lies, deceptions and manipulations that go along with a man’s porn use, this might be true. But, there were. The lies, deceptions and manipulations constitute betrayal which creates connections in the brain that cause PTSD in many women. No amount of facts about porn will change this or what happens in her brain when she finds out she’s been betrayed. I really wish they would because I wouldn’t have to deal with triggers all the time!!!

I can say from experience as someone who does understand and believe the truths you tell about porn use, knowing the truth helps but will never take the pain away or keep me from having triggers. The more I learn about what is really happening with me, the better equipped I am to deal with it when it happens. Also, the better my husband understands, the more he can help me and himself. As unfortunate as it is for both of us when I experience triggers, we learn more about ourselves. Ultimately, this helps both of us in our healing and recovery. Pushing it under the rug would only make things worse for both of us in the long run. My husband would LOVE for me to never talk about things again. His shame and blame of himself are triggered whenever we talk about my pain. He HATES how he’s hurt me. So, he would love nothing more than to just forget about it. But, that would not be good for either of us. Pushing away his feelings is exactly what got him into porn in the first place. Burying his feelings about how much he hurt me might help him feel better in the present, but it could lead to further porn use in the future. And, obviously, not talking about my pain would not be good for me either. We BOTH have to face our feelings and learn to deal with them.

You absolutely should continue fighting the lies about porn use for both genders. You are one of few people doing this. It helped me a lot and I’m forever grateful for it. I hope you will also consider talking more about the trauma of betrayal women experience and how this affects their brain and reactions. Asking women to “get past it” and just see their husband’s pain is impossible when trauma has occurred and will never work in the long run. Their brain is already rewired around the trauma. They have NO CONTROL over the triggers that cause their fear. Women have to understand what is happening in their brains so they can learn how to deal with it.

Something else I’ve learned that you might find interesting. Trauma can also occur with ongoing sexual refusal. I have many of the same issues about the years of outright sexual refusal as I do with the porn use. Both genders need to learn more about this too. I don’t see anyone talking about this from a psychological standpoint. I thought my counselor was crazy when she first told me the sexual refusal caused trauma. The more I learn, I know she was correct and I see the similarities with the trauma from the porn use. I wish everyone who refuses sex regularly would know this truth. If they realized how deeply they were causing permanent damage to their spouse, it might make a difference. Simply resuming sex again will never take away the pain or alleviate the fear that is triggered when similar behaviors appear even if the behaviors are perfectly valid and don’t mean sex is going to be refused again.

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K October 30, 2016 at 3:37 pm

@Paul,
Here is the comment I promised on tangible steps. I truly hope it helps any man who reads it. These things have all helped me heal and I believe they will help most women. NONE of these things will be easy for the husband to do and they WILL cause triggers for him. Unfortunately, there is just no way around that.

What Husbands CAN Do:

Ok, here it is. This comment is about the tangible things a husband can do to help their wife and repair their marriage after porn use.

To any man reading this. I’m so sorry for your struggles with porn. I know you are in pain and your pain only makes the struggle harder. I also know your wife’s pain WILL trigger you. I’m sorry for this too and for the fact there is nothing you can do about it other than seeking help for yourself.

Some Important Understandings:
—Your wife has experienced trauma associated with betrayal. Do research on both trauma and betrayal to see how they affect the brain.
—Your wife is experiencing tremendous fear. Fear is the motivating factor in many of her actions. Your main goal needs to be helping to calm her fears and making her feel safe. Only then can she think and act rationally.
—Your wife’s fear will often manifest itself as anger. Learn to see anger as sign that she isn’t feeling safe. This is your cue to do whatever is necessary to make her feel safe in the moment.
—Your wife needs to grieve. She has experienced many losses. Grieving is central to her healing. Learn about grief if you don’t already know much about it. This can help you recognize when and if she is grieving. Encourage her to grieve.

Here are some actions you can take. None of them are a magic cure and they won’t be easy. Don’t expect them to be one. With consistency and time they will help your wife and help your marriage.

1. Be Humble – Your behaviors have hurt your wife. Be humble when dealing with her. Let her know you recognize how your actions have hurt her.
2. Resist The Urge To Be Defensive – This will so difficult for several reasons. You will want to be defensive when your pain and shame are triggered. You will want to be defensive around “the facts” when she doesn’t believe them. Recognize that anytime you become defensive, her fear is being triggered and usually shows up as anger. Remember that in these moments, you have to make her feel safe or you’ll get no where.
3. Full Disclosure – You have to give her full disclosure even though you don’t want to hurt any more. She has to know everything that transpired. How many details will vary from woman to woman. Give her all of the major events and then give her any details she needs. Dragging this out over time is more hurtful for both of you and gives her more reason to suspect you are still hiding things.
4. Get Help – Join a support group, go to counseling, get an accountability partner, put filters on all electronics, read books, etc. Do whatever is necessary to help you overcome your porn use. This will demonstrate you are not just giving it lip service.
5. Be Venerable And Communicate About Your Recovery – Tell her what you are doing to get help for yourself, but go beyond that. Tell her what you are learning about yourself. For example, “Today in counseling, I learned I’ve been feeling ______. When I feel that way, my tendency is to withdraw and I’ve been using porn as my means to withdraw.”
6. Have An Open Door Policy – Let her know she can come talk to you about anything anytime. When she does, be humble and resist the urge to become defensive. This WILL NOT be easy! It WILL trigger you. But, it will demonstrate your love and show her you are working to make her feel safe.
7. Give Up All Privacy – Share all passwords, email, texts, etc. Again, make everything accessible to her. Your willingness to do this will make her feel safe and show that you no longer have anything to hide.
8. Be COMPLETELY Transparent – When she asks your schedule for the day, give her ALL the details. If she asks how much you spent at the store, tell her down to the penny. This will be frustrating, but it will help her feel safe and help you rebuild trust.
9. Be Proactive – Take control of your recovery. Take control of scheduling couple’s counseling if you are doing it. Don’t wait for her to talk about things. Bring it up. Ask her if she needs to talk about anything. This will be so hard for you, but so helpful for her. Again, these things will show your desire to change and make her feel safe.
10. Ask Her What She Needs – Hopefully, she will be going to counseling where she will start to identify what she needs. It may be more details. It may be for you to help more around the house. Whatever her needs, do what you can to meet them.

This list is not comprehensive. It does contain some of the major things you can do. The theme throughout are things that help calm her fears and rebuild trust.

One last thing I’d suggest is that you encourage her to go to counseling on her own even if you are going to couple’s counseling. I’d make the same suggestion to any husband too. There are things I need to be able to sort out with my counselor without my husband. This gives me a safe place to get out some of my anger before talking to my husband and helps me decide what things are important enough to talk to him about. I don’t want to burden him with every little thing because I know this isn’t healthy for him. Having individual counseling for myself makes it better for both of us.

@Paul, I hope this helps you when talking to men.

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Mrs N November 1, 2016 at 1:14 pm

@K and @Paul, everything K has written is spot on. I speak as a wife whose husband has used porn and had a lengthy affair, and with both of both of those he brought a third party into our marriage bed, with attending lies, deception, and betrayal. I’m certain that he felt the depth of the betrayal after the affair and that it is behind us and I trust it will never happen again. The porn went on much longer. I have not felt, in spite of calm discussions, that he ever grasped how traumatic it is/was. Perhaps it’s because men compartmentalize things; in a way, I wish I could also. It would be nice to put all that garbage in a box and nail the lid shut. But it’s not as simple as that.

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K November 2, 2016 at 2:54 pm

@MrsN,
“I have not felt, in spite of calm discussions, that he ever grasped how traumatic it is/was.”

I completely understand. That’s probably one of biggest things I’ve had to accept and grieve with both the sexual refusal and the porn use. My husband will never completely understand how deeply he’s hurt me. With time and many talks, he understands better than he ever has. But, he can never completely understand since he hasn’t experienced that type of betrayal and rejection (with the sexual refusal). Hurting him in that way is not something I’d ever want to do, so I’ve had to accept he’ll never fully understand.

And, thank you for saying “calm discussions”. Since I talk about my anger, I think it may come off as me yelling, screaming and berating my husband. None of that has ever occurred in our marriage and I wouldn’t condone that type of behavior. Even when things are tough in marriage, I still believe husbands and wives should treat each other with love and respect in how they speak to each other.

Paul Byerly November 3, 2016 at 10:22 am

@Mrs N – So he “gets it” over the physical adultery, but not the porn use. I think this comes down to a fundamental difference in how men and women see porn. I’m not going to say one is right and the other is wrong – both are valid for the person who has those feelings and thoughts. The problem is finding some common ground, which is unlikely. Perhaps the best we can do it accept that our spouse’s feeling are valid for them.
With the porn, he did not intend the level of hurt you felt. This does not take away that hurt, nor should it. But understanding he didn’t think it would be that bad should make you feel a little less bad.
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K October 21, 2016 at 9:58 pm

@Paul – Thanks for clarifying your thoughts. It helps me see your position better and realize we’re not as far off as I thought. I do want to address some of the things you said, but can’t fully respond right now. I’ll respond with more later. For now, I’ll just say that nothing I’m saying about a wife’s reaction should involve punishment. I don’t think it’s healthy for either party if the wife’s actions are motivated by a desire to punish or get back at their husband.

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Charlie O October 22, 2016 at 12:04 pm

There is a chasm between the man that is determined to continue in this type of behavior and the man that would very much like to gain victory over it. With a minimum of emotion I believe that it would be good for a couple to have a conversation about a computer filter and a male accountability figure–another man to whom he would have to report. Having her in this position is not a good arrangement.

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Paul Byerly October 22, 2016 at 1:00 pm

@Charlie O – You’re right about the difference. I also agree it’s not good for a wife to be her husband’s primary accountability partner in this. I’ve known couples where it works, but for most it’s a bad plan.
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Kay October 22, 2016 at 1:24 pm

My husband used to masturbate quite frequently–no porn–and tell me it was okay because he was thinking of me. We had a very good talk two years ago about how deeply that wounds me and he agreed to stop. But I think he is back to old habits. I think this posts hits the nail on the head about his masturbation habit. No, there is no porn involved, but I think masturbating is a coping mechanism for him exactly as you’ve written here, and I can see now that it most likely isn’t about me at all, especially because we have sex every two to three days yet he is still masturbating. How do I talk to him about this, Paul? I think my hubby isn’t the type of guy to know the thoughts of his heart well enough to know why he feels the need to masturbate. I am just deeply concerned that he is not dealing with his insecurities and frustrations in a healthy or godly way and I want to help.

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Paul Byerly October 22, 2016 at 6:19 pm

@Kay – There are a couple pf possibilities here

Yes, it’s possible for masturbation to be used to deal with stress or other issues. But it’s hard to nail this down. One guy masturbates daily because his sex drive yells at him that often while another could quiet his drive with a few times a week and he’s doing more to cope with other things. Those who have it bad on this masturbate multiple times a day – some all the time, others only when going through a rough time.

I assume from what you’ve said your husband is on the low end of what I mentioned above. If he’s doing it more than once a day that’s another issue altogether.

I’d start by having a talk with him about what he feels he needs in the way of release. No matter what he says, ask him if he’s downplaying it for you. Ask him if what he said is enough or what he thinks you can hear. What a man needs varies a great deal. On one extreme you have healthy, 30-year-old men who say once a month is enough. On the other extreme, you have men of the same age who find going more than 24 hours a real problem. A majority of men can do just fine with every other day, but there are plenty of exceptions both ways.

If your current frequency is not as much as he thinks is enough, that may be a big part of the problem. If you can offer your hand or a quickie to get him to what he says is enough then he has no reason to masturbate. If he continues to do so, something else is going on. If he stops masturbating, then it may have been primarily about sex drive.

I’ve talked to many men who are convinced their wife could not hear the truth about their sex drive. They avoid the issue or tell her what they feel is safe. Many of these men masturbate to make up the difference, but most of them don’t feel good about it. I don’t know that this is your husband, but from my experience, I’d say this at least as likely as him using masturbation just to cope. It could also be a combination of both, which makes it difficult for the man to see the coping part because he knows there’s a sex drive part to it.
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Dandelion October 22, 2016 at 2:45 pm

The part about porn not being like an affair was quite helpful to me. I can understand and cope with my husband’s couple time a month porn use more easily than his several times daily visiting internet sites of very provocative bikini and lingerie girls. That seems to fall less in the addiction camp and more under selfishness and self control. Especially since he increased his viewing during some of the very best years of our marriage. He has said he’ll stop looking at both and I sure do want to believe him. Rebuilding trust is HARD! I had trusted him completely before my discovery and now it’s so hard not to think of him as a lecherous, ogling pig.

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ted October 23, 2016 at 8:08 am

I find I am learning as much from the comments as the article itself, as i examine myself with regard to my own struggles in this area.I totally get Dandelion’s statement about bikini models being viewed as more hurtful than actual porn. The first is outright lust, the latter could just be from a desire for that type of connection.
Also Paul’s comment on men toning down expressing how much intimacy they really think is enough is very valid. When I first married even though we were intimate very day, I was still taking care pf myself several times a day on top of that. This was before I was a Christian. Even now at 60+, there isn’t a day that goes by that at some point I have a desire to be intimate with my wife. To tell her this would risk quite a lot. It has become my default reaction to try to shut down my desire when in her mind there isn’t time or has problems engaging, which in many cases is right, but that does not take away the desire. I know that there are exceptions to this rule, and I feel for those ladies, but generally speaking wives have as much sex as they think they need, Husbands not so much.
When I think back to how I got into porn at first, I think of Paul’s statement of it being about lust and curiosity. In the sense that we use the word lust today, I don’t think that is true, but in the sense of having a strong, overwhelming desire, I think it is true. Curiosity and wanting to learn about sex certainly. My dad’s idea of educating me about sex was to hand me a copy of Penthouse magazine as I was leaving for bootcamp. I mentioned I was socially awkward. This was in all relationships both male and female, and even within family. My parents seemed to always be in their own world, and we children were left to ourselves for the most part. I don’t say this critically, nine children is a lot for any couple to manage. I only mention it because it left me in a position of learning from reading, something I’ve always loved. My first exposure was to erotic novels that my dad read. On the outside seemingly a detective novel,on the inside more sexual encounters than detective work. Many romance novels women read today are probably more graphic. My parents may have been willing to help in this area in hindsight, but at the time I felt like I was expected to handle everything in my life on my own. Including learning about sex. Even in my marriage, I felt I was expected to have all the answers, how to go about it and pleasing my wife. Having no male friends or mentors to turn to, I did what I do to this day on any subject. I read.I still don’t do male bonding really well, even as a Christian man. I still tend to be distrustful and guarded. I am actively working to change this, since I recognize this is NOT God’s will for me, but it’s a slow go for more reasons than I can go into here. All this to say, my draw to porn in all it’s forms, is very similar to the female draw to chick flicks and romance novels. A desire for intimate connection that I feel is lacking. The key word there is feel because it actually tends to fuel a discontent in what I do have.
I have no real point to make at the end of this, I just felt a little self-examination on the subject might be helpful to someone. If not then I at least appreciate being allowed to express thoughts I normally keep to myself.

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Paul Byerly October 24, 2016 at 11:02 am

@ted – I wish men would and could be honest about their sex drive when they get married. Unfortunately, many women go into marriage with the idea that anything more than X is excessive. A man who wants more than that is oversexed and it’ not only her right but her duty to say no and teach him to be more reasonable. All too often the arbitrary level she sees as “reasonable” is well below what most men desire. This leaves the man with no good options.
When you and I were young (I’m 55) there were very few good ways to learn about sex, while porn was fairly easy to get. Because porn showed sex it seemed like it should help us learn about sex. I suspect this is why my dad was into porn. As more “educational” resources on sex became available he seemed to lose his interest in porn.

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Libl October 24, 2016 at 3:03 am

It is good men and women are having dialogs about porn use. We are learning more and more.

Correct me if I am wrong, but I think one gender miscommunication is how porn is seen. Men seem to see porn as a thing. Women tend to see porn as people. Men see it as the drug-like entity that it is, but women see the humanity and indignity of the women (and men) presented. Men see the titillation. Women see the abuse and misuse.

That is why Ted can have his story and Madeline hers in the comments above. Unfortunately, I see too many male Christian bloggers address the entity of porn, but not the reality of the pain behind it. And women are left wondering why the piece of glass and keyboard between the girl and her husband makes it any different and less of a problem than if she were really there in the room with him.

Even the Bible says sexual sins are different than other sins in 1 Corinthians.

I understand the draw and why people get hooked and can compartmentalize porn into a n entity, a thing. But, fact is, it is human beings. The effects are wide spread with a great ripple effect of damage.

I understand not vilifying Christian men who struggle and want to escape, but at the same time, because porn has such widespread damage, destroying the very intimate nature, bond, and covenant of marriage, it ought not to be tolerated in the least. (Sexlessness in marriage ought not to be tolerated, either.)

The church needs to do more about this.

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Paul Byerly October 24, 2016 at 11:19 am

@Libl – I would agree men don’t tend to see porn as people. But how do the women who use porn see it? Do they see people, or do they also see it as a thing? I would honestly like to know this.

I am totally with you on the last point. I addressed this about two months ago over on TGH – Is the Church Too Soft on Porn? Then I had a chance to mention it from the pulpit at our church a few weeks later. I’m happy to say it was not the first time porn has been addressed from the pulpit at our church – I know the pastor has done so a couple of times before.
Porn is not okay or no big deal, it’s the biggest, most common, and most destructive sex sin in the church today.
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ted October 24, 2016 at 7:24 am

@ Libl. So what would you say about erotic literature? I consider it to be pornographic material just as much as video erotica. You are correct in that 1corinthians talks of sexual sin as being different than other sins, in that a man sins against his own body in that case. It’s interesting to note some versions say sexual immorality and some say fornication in that particular verse.
BTW when speaking did you know that the use of the word “but”,you are essentially invalidating everything that precedes it? How would you not vilify those who are ensnared, and not tolerate it in the least? I think you are right in saying men and women see this differently, but not in the same way. I think men see it as not so black and white as women do. You seem to look at it only as video or images, where I see it as erotic literature also.When you talk about the damage caused by it, are you speaking of those who are forced into it? Then what of those who willingly produce it? Is that somehow not as bad? If it’s cartoon porn is that any better, since there are no people involved? It seems as if you are hung up on one aspect of the problem, when in reality it’s much larger than that. I guess what comes to my mind when I think of what constitutes porn, is very different than what comes to your mind. My definition very broadly, is anything that creates arousal other than thoughts of my wife and our intimacy.So to me that includes many things that most women would not include, most especially literature of the romance novel type. Perhaps that is where the disconnect is between men and women? My daughter would never watch porn of the graphic video type, yet has no problem watching Game of Thrones, or reading Fifty Shades of Grey. I find I cannot view anything that contains sex scenes, without guilt. In this day and age that is extremely hard to find in movies, at least of the variety that appeal to me. I think we need to as a society, think outside the box as to what is really going on when we think of sexual immorality in the world today, and how the enemy is attacking us as Christians.

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Libl October 24, 2016 at 10:27 am

Two things: I in no way support the use of erotic literature, romance novels, Game of Thrones, or Fifty Shades. I do believe they are pornography and sinful. So, I don’t know why you are trying to invalidate what I am saying by suggesting that I am ok with the one and not the other, essentially pointing fingers at men,want letting women have their paperbacks.

2. I don’t buy the whole “but invalidates everything preceding it” point. Someone made that up and it became cheap debate gospel.

My definition is as broad as yours. And I believe porn creates a ripple effect of hurt concerning everyone involved from producers, artists, actors, slaves, viewers, and those close to the viewers. In many cases the hurt won’t be felt until judgement day. In other cases the hurt happens at a tender young age due to a careless father and his hidden stash, or a pedophile preying on his or her victim.

Believe me, I get teased mercilessly by friends and my own husband for not watching Game of Thrones or other graphic movies or TV shows. I am alienated in some gal pal circles for not discussing 50 Shades or Magic Mike, and even speaking out against them.

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ted October 24, 2016 at 10:55 am

I’m not trying to invalidate anything, I was simply asking questions. The biggest is how do you void vilifying those who struggle with this and as you said ,”not tolerate it at all.”? I was not attacking. as for the comment about the word “but” we will simply have to agree to disagree.

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Paul Byerly October 24, 2016 at 11:34 am

@ted – I suppose you’re asking how we hate the sin and love the sinner? Jesus was a master of this. No one could have felt their sin was okay around Him, but they didn’t feel personally attacked either.
When it comes to porn I’m concerned with the “It’s a process” approach. This makes it okay for a man or woman to take years to get free of the sin of porn. And it allows for them to continue in ministry all the while. I don’t find that approach in the Bible.
I realise defeating sin is sometimes a matter of doing it less and less with some slips until it’s really gone. My fear is we have made far too much of an allowance for this with the sin of porn, giving people the excuse to drag it out for years and years.

All that said, I admit it’s impossible for me to empathise with those who struggle with porn. At 15 when I realised it was wrong I prayed and stopped. I went from looking at porn every day to not doing it for years without a single “slip”. I’m giving God the glory for that, it was Him, not me. Maybe it’s like the rare cocaine or cigarette addict who stops and never goes back, or maybe it’s something God wants to do for most who are looking at porn. I’ve certainly experienced the longing and pull of other sins I’ve worked to eliminate, so I get it, but I never felt it in this area.
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Libl October 24, 2016 at 1:37 pm

It seems you are asking how to make the porn user not feel like garbage for looking at it. Sorry, but sinning is supposed to make you feel like garbage. I’m not going to stand over a porn user trying to break free and cast stones and spew names in their face, but I am not going to sugar coat it, either. Christ called the Jewish leaders hypocrites. The Bible calls sinners fools.

I have an explosive temper. Part of it is because of brain chemical trauma from years of high stress and post partum depression. It is still an ugly sin and I am ashamed of myself and feel like garbage when I give in to it. That is called conviction. Condemnation is when I feel God can’t or won’t help me overcome it and I let it fester and continue. Or, I can,send that what I am doing isn’t enough and get MORE help.

Porn temptation is everywhere, as is the temptation to rage. If I was in the grocery store and my kid dropped a glass jar of sauce and it broke and I raged at him and a shopper nearby called me a horrid mother who needs help, I wouldn’t cry at her for judging me. She’d be right!! I would be a horrid mother if I,do that.

I understand kids push a mom’s buttons, but if a mother raged at her kid and hit him upside the head, she’s a horrid mother. That but doesn’t invalidate what is said before or after it. We can understand the triggers…we ought to as it helps us get help. But, we cannot tolerate the sin. Well, it’s ok, so long as I only hit my kid once a month after a serious trigger. I’m getting better, after all.

No! No, no, no! If I was treating my kid like that, there had better be consequences.

If a cocaine addict came up dirty again, you step up the treatment.

If an alcoholic turns up drunk at an AA meeting, there is going to be an intervention.

I am so very sorry for any man struggling with porn, but porn is inexcusable. This is serious stuff.

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AC October 29, 2016 at 1:16 am

I haven’t read the comments but I can tell my story. I am a porn addict and I am stuck in this. I have been honest with my wife and of course she has been hurt. I have tried to break free but I have fallen so many times that I figured there is no idea telling her because she gets so hurt. Our sex life is not that good , but it was already bad before I confessed. Why do I watch porn? Why am I such a disgusting and horrible husband? It started when I was a kid and I have struggled with my whole life. Why can’t I stop? I don’t know! Use will power! I have tried but I can’t control it. I have filter, I have confessed it and etc. But I am so stuck. I don’t expect people to understand but I just want to be free. I hate this! I hate myself! I have tried to get help but there I am one to find where I leave. People in the churches don’t talk about this. I don’t deserve my wife and I have thought about divorcing. Maybe that will lead to my deliverance. I actually started to watch more when I met my wife mainly because I was insecure about the relationship. Ithat gave me anguish and when I feel anguish I watch. When we got married everything was ok but then I started to watch more when she got pregnant. At the same time I got burned out and my refuge became porn and now I am stuck. So I understand everyone who hates people who watch porn. If it wasn’t because I know I would come to hell I would jump out my balcony months ago because this is killing me. I am a horrible person and should be killed.

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Paul Byerly October 29, 2016 at 11:01 am

@AC – I have a friend who has much the same in his past. He got into a good group and got real help. He would not say he’s free of it, but he no longer “acts out” and it’s no longer an issue for his marriage.
Look for a Celebrate Recovery group – they seem to be one of the best for this.
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AC October 29, 2016 at 11:10 am

That would be nice but I live in Sweden. One of the most pornified and lukewarm places on earth. Here not even the churches can help you! I confessed to my pastor but she didn’t offer much help. She is a single , unmarried women! How we would she know how to help! There are no men’s group here. There are barely a 100 members in the church and no on e is open about anything. There is barely any talk about sin and when it is, is just that you are going to hell. So there is no help! What am I going to do? Try on my own like I am but I don’t know what will happen. Either I will continue to become a monster or I will just end it all.

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Libl October 31, 2016 at 11:29 am

AC, I will pray for you.

Try online groups. The Marriage Bed Message Board has an accountability and support group.

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W November 1, 2016 at 3:28 am

I find it interesting that when woman respond to a blog written for woman which is entitled Title “A Different take on His Porn Struggle” the response from men is, woman use porn and how do the women who use porn see it, and the sin of woman’s use of erotic literature. Umm if you want to talk about the sin of those topics, write another blog post. You dilute your message and minimize the pain of those wives who don’t use porn, who don’t read smute like 50 shades of gray. The fact that other woman do, is irrelevant to them, because they don’t, and the fact that other woman do, doesn’t matter to their marriage.

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Paul Byerly November 1, 2016 at 5:16 pm

@W – I brought it up because I saw men as a group being treated a certain way because men use porn. Porn is no longer a male problem, it’s a people problem. In fact, female porn use is growing faster than male use, and at current rates they will catch up in a decade or less.
I don’t think it helps anyone to see it as a male problem, especially when it is not.
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K November 2, 2016 at 3:52 pm

This is a prime example of what I mentioned earlier about husbands and wives disagreeing about the facts over his porn use or any other sexual integrity issues.

Paul, you are talking with your head and women are talking with their hearts. Think about that for a moment.

You are trying to combat emotion with facts. It’ll never work! That’s just a recipe for disaster. When you write a post like this and women respond about the hurt they’re feeling over their husband’s porn use, throwing statistics about women and porn at them is not what they want or need. They want and need empathy in that moment. They want to know you recognize they are in pain and you care about their pain.

There is a time and place to combat myths of porn use being a male problem, but in the mist of a woman’s pain is not it. Write another post about the statistics. Give the FACTS at a time when a woman can accept it and process it without already elevated emotions getting in the way.

That’s why women stay silent when you talk about this. It’s not that you’re saying it or that you’re wrong. It’s that you’re saying it at the wrong time. Fight the lies, but not at the sake of women’s hearts. If you continue to do it this way, you’re only making women more resistant to hearing the truth you’re trying to get across.

The same is true when husbands keep insisting on telling their wife the facts when she is in a deeply negative emotional state. Both parties will just end up more frustrated and stuck in an endless cycle. Emotion has to be dealt with by emotion, not by the head. Facts just don’t matter in the moment when emotions go south.

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Paul Byerly November 3, 2016 at 10:26 am

@K – I am suggesting some (not all, some) of the emotions are a result of believing things that are not true. If I thought Lori was having an affair I’d be deeply hurt EVEN IF SHE WAS NOT. If she’s not having an affair them my feelings are based on a lie, and exposing the lie is the best solution.
Dealing with an emotion that’s based on a lie as an emotion seems like a disastrous plan to me. All it does is reinforce the emotion. Does that make sence?
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K November 3, 2016 at 3:55 pm

@Paul,
First, I’m glad to hear you say “some of the emotions” because it doesn’t always come off that way.

You really seem to be missing my point. It boils down to basic principals of how the brain works. There is a lot of science to back this up. When someone is in a very negative emotional state, they are not thinking and functioning rationally. So, it doesn’t matter what the truth is or whether or not their wrong belief is causing the negative emotion. Any human, MALE OR FEMALE, will never be convinced of the truth or the facts until they are in a better state of mind. Trying to convince them of the truth while they are in that state will only make both parties more frustrated and angry because it creates a cycle that just causes each party dig their heels deeper.

It doesn’t matter what the topic is. The topic could be whether or not the sky is blue. If you are trying to convince of me of that fact when I’m in a very negative emotional state, your efforts are for naught. If I’m very hurt and upset believing the sky is red and you keep telling me it is blue, you’ll never be able to convince me of the truth. The more you try to convince me, the more upset and emotional I become. You, in turn, become more defensive because you know THE TRUTH is that the sky is blue. Your defensiveness and unrelenting efforts to convince me of the truth, just hurt me more. IN THAT MOMENT what I need is your understanding and recognition of my pain. IN THAT MOMENT, it doesn’t matter what the truth is or whether or not my pain is stemming from a lie. WHAT I REALLY NEED IN THAT MOMENT IS TO KNOW YOU RECOGNIZE MY PAIN. Once I have calmed down and am able to think and function rationally, I will be more able to hear and accept the truth.

If you thought Lori was having an affair and she tried convincing you she was not when you were in a very negative state, you would both end up more hurt. You two would end up in an endless cycle of debate which only serves to cause both of you more hurt. If instead, she stopped trying to convince you she hadn’t had an affair, she said to you “I understand how hurt you are at the thought of me having an affair. If I suspected you had an affair, I would be deeply hurt too. I’m so sorry you feel that way right now.” Notice she didn’t admit to doing anything she hadn’t done. She is ONLY demonstrating EMPATHY for your pain. She is relating to your heart, not your head. This would begin to make you feel safe and calm down.

Once your brain had a chance to settle down, you’d be more able to hear her explanation about what really happened. Granted, it would take A LOT of strength and patience for her to respond that way in the moment because she would be upset too. She would also be hurt because you won’t believe her. But, if she had actually done something to lead you to believe she may be having an affair and she recognized this, it might be easier for her to take a step back and reach out to emotionally. Understanding the workings of the brain in these types of situations could also help her be able to step back and reach out to you on an emotional level IN THAT MOMENT.

That’s why it’s not good for you to dismiss the need for both husbands and wives to understand how the brain works and what’s going on in her brain in those moments. It becomes more about her state of mind than the actual facts IN THOSE MOMENTS. It benefits both parties to understand this. It’s not that the truth doesn’t matter. It’s that you will never be able to convince them of the truth while they are in a deeply negative emotional state.

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Paul Byerly November 3, 2016 at 6:23 pm

@K – I understand the futility of trying to deal with facts IN THE MOMENT of strong emotions. My concern is when those strong emotions go on for months and months, making it impossible to ever deal with the facts. That’s not normal and there is no brain science to say it is, but it happens. At that point, it’s a choice, a power play, and it’s selfish bordering on evil.

Beyond that, it’s possible to learn to step out of a bad emotional state. I know because both Lori and I have learned to do it. It takes a lot of work and time and we still mess up, but more and more we are able to recognise being crazy and stop ourselves. (And for the record Lori is generally better at it than I am.)
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Ms N November 1, 2016 at 6:49 pm

Men or women using porn, it’s still sin. But I do wonder if the female users husbands would be as distressed as the women you have heard from in this post?

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Paul Byerly November 1, 2016 at 7:09 pm

@Ms N – For the most part, no, they are not. Men don’t see porn as a sex act with another person, and they are consistent be it they or their wife doing it. Most Christian men would be unhappy about it, but would not take it as personally as most women do.
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K November 2, 2016 at 3:24 pm

@Paul,
I don’t see porn as “a sex act with another person” and never have. I think the key phrases there are “sex act” and “with another person”. I believe he had sexual thoughts about another person and wanted to see other women naked, but I wouldn’t call those sex acts. Even if he masturbated while watching porn, I see them as two different things. Masturbating is a sex act. Watching porn is not a sex act, IMO.

He is performing a sex act by masturbating. He is choosing to do that while looking at images of other women, but I see them as separate things. He could masturbate alone without watching porn, but lust while he’s doing it. It wouldn’t matter if he’s watching porn or not. It’s the lusting that is the problem and the betrayal.

He could also lust after any woman he sees in person, but that doesn’t involve porn. It’s just as wrong and hurtful, but I wouldn’t consider that a sex act. He’s lusting. No sexual behavior is going along with it.

Even though I view all of these separately, I still see them all as hurtful because they involve him thinking about someone other than me in sexual ways. In any of these situations, he is thinking about other women and either seeing them naked or imagining naked. It was my understanding when we got married that he was promising to keep those thoughts and images about me. I did not marry him agreeing to allow him to look any other naked women in any way, shape or form. The fact that it is someone he’s strictly imaging in his mind, looking at an image or seeing in person doesn’t matter. None of those scenarios were supposed to be part of our marriage.

I think it doesn’t affect men the same way because of their visual nature and propensity to lust. I don’t mean this in any negative way. It’s how they’re wired. But, for that reason, men view this as “normal” or expected behavior. For that reason, it wouldn’t affect them in the same way it does women. I think it’s more about how we’re hard wired than whether or not we view it as a sex act with another person. Women want to be the only object of their husband’s sexuality. It ‘s how we’re wired, so it hurts immensely when we find out we’re not.

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Paul Byerly November 3, 2016 at 10:30 am

@K – So lust and porn are very different? What about a fantasy about a woman he saw earlier while he is masturbating, how does that rate? Just trying to understand.
I agree the difference is in how visual men are. What we see and what we do (touch) are two very different things to us. We feel we can and should control what we touch, but many men don’t feel they can control what they do with what they see.
Overall I think men see porn as a much smaller wrong than it is. I also think women see it as a bigger wrong than it is. I’d say the average woman is close to reality than the average man, but usually neither is seeing it as God does.
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K November 3, 2016 at 4:47 pm

Both lust and watching porn are bad and both sexual sin, but they are NOT NECESSARILY the same thing. I know it is possible for my husband to lust without porn being involved. According to the Bible, this is adultery of the heart and I view it as such.

It is also possible for my husband to watch porn and not lust. In fact, he says he usually was thinking of me. Maybe I’m a bigger fool than I think, but I ACTUALLY BELIEVE HIM. I still believe this is a sin and violates our marriage vows. Like I said before, when I got married I was in NO WAY agreeing to have my husband WILLINGLY seek out images of naked women. And, quite frankly, the reason for him doing so doesn’t make MUCH difference in how this FEELS. I understand very well my husband’s reasons for doing it. I also know he was in pain. NONE of those FACTS change the FACT that he WILLINGLY exposed himself to naked images of other women at the expense of promises and vows he made to me. If he drank to cope with his pain, he WOULD NOT HAVE violated our covenant and vows. He never promised before me, God and witnesses that he wouldn’t drink. But, he didn’t choose drinking as his means of coping. He chose sexual sin as his way of escape and coping.

Fantasy about a woman he saw, is lusting. It doesn’t matter if he masturbates to the fantasy or not. Just like it doesn’t matter if masturbated while watching porn or not. It’s that he is not keeping his thoughts and eyes only to me. IF I FANTASIZE ABOUT ANOTHER MAN, THERE IS NO DIFFERENCE. IF I WATCH PORN, THERE IS NO DIFFERENCE. I would be sinning and betraying our marriage vows just the same. NO REASON ON EARTH WOULD CHANGE THOSE FACTS.

If he told me had never watched porn but lusted regularly, I would be just as hurt and feel just as betrayed.

For the record, my husband has told me he would have been very upset if I had been going to see male strippers behind his back. As for porn, he wouldn’t have seen that as much of a betrayal for several reasons. He didn’t believe porn was a sin. He honestly thought every adult watched porn at some point in their lives. He compartmentalized it so much that it had no relationship to me whatsoever. He no longer believes this. He knows now the damage it did and no longer views it as separate from me or our marriage. From his new perspective, he would be very hurt now if I was watching porn. If I did it behind his back, he would feel just as betrayed as I do. I know this because he has told me.

I think compartmentalization has a HUGE role in the discrepancies between male and female views about porn use. Between a males visual nature and his ability to compartmentalize, his battle is great. I feel for men in this regards because there is nothing they can do about their visual nature. I want my husband to learn to control it in regards to other women, but I’d never want him to lose his visual nature. I need and want him to visually stimulated by me. Otherwise, his sexuality would be compromised. They can, however, learn not to compartmentalize porn use which is an important factor in breaking the cycle of porn use.

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Paul Byerly November 3, 2016 at 6:27 pm

@K – I mostly agree with you on this.
But, is the problem compartmentalising, or how men draw the lines? I think most men put porn and lusting after a woman showing too much in the same “category” while going to a strip club is in a different category.
Maybe we should just use God’s categories – sin, and not sin.
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K November 3, 2016 at 5:00 pm

“but many men don’t feel they can control what they do with what they see.”

The main thing with regards to porn is they are seeking it out. We’re not talking about a stray thought they had about the billboard on the interstate. It becomes betrayal when they seek it out. Then, there is more betrayal when they hide it and lie about it.

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Paul Byerly November 3, 2016 at 6:29 pm

@K – I meant everything they see, which includes the busty bank teller in the low cut top. If a man feels he can’t control how he reacts to that, then he may just give up on controlling what he thinks about what he sees as a lost cause. Once he does that, justifying or downplaying the harm of porn are easy.
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K November 3, 2016 at 5:02 pm

“but usually neither is seeing it as God does”

What is your basis for this thought? Is there any scripture to back up your thinking? I’m trying to understand why you think this.

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Paul Byerly November 3, 2016 at 6:33 pm

@K – Given porn is not directly discussed in the Bible, I have no scripture to back me up.
I do find many women seem to think sexual sin is excluded from some basic Christian principles like forgiveness and grace.
And many men seem to think giving in to the same sin for years and years is okay as long as you really want to stop.
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K November 4, 2016 at 11:40 am

This helps me understand what you meant. I do agree that forgiveness and grace are important and in no way are exceptions to how God wants us to respond.

“I do find many women seem to think sexual sin is excluded from some basic Christian principles like forgiveness and grace.”

-How do you know for sure many women think forgiveness and grace are excluded? Have many women specifically told you that or is that your opinion based on talking with men or from things you hear women say on your blogs?
-What do you think forgiveness and grace looks like in this situation?
-How is forgiveness and grace different from restoration of the marriage?
-What role does healing for the woman play into her ability to extend grace and forgive? And, does extending forgiveness and grace mean the woman is completely healed?

I ask these questions because it seems like you have many preconceived notions about these things that you believe as absolute truth. I wonder where these beliefs come from and if they are based on information from the source who would best know the truth.
-How many women have you discussed this with? I’m talking about women who have been through the healing process and have come out or are on their way to coming out the other side. Women who have sought out help to get through this.
Have you asked them what their healing process was like? What kind of help they received? What role their husband played in their healing? How long it took? If they are completely healed? If they still have triggers? What beliefs they have now that may be different than what they initially believed? What lies got solidified in the moments they found out and how they have been able to overcome those lies to help aid in their healing? Etc., etc., etc.

I can answer all of these questions and many more. I have and continue to work very hard on my healing. Had I not been doing the work and just believed I should be able to overcome this on my own, I would be completely stuck and would probably come across as unwilling to forgive and extend grace. This is what I think you are seeing many times and partially what is driving your beliefs about women not wanting to forgive and extend grace.

“And many men seem to think giving in to the same sin for years and years is okay as long as you really want to stop.”

I can’t speak at all to the validity of this comment. I do wonder how many of these men believe porn is not a sin. I think there are many Christians (men and women) who don’t view porn as a sin. I think that’s partially why you see more young women watching porn now.

I would also ask some of the same questions about the men as I posed above about women.
-What are they doing to overcome the problem?
-Are they getting help or just trying to will themselves to stop?
-If they are getting help, what kind and is it enough? (Every man does not need the same level of help. Some would be fine with just an accountability partner, some need a support group, etc.)

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Paul Byerly November 4, 2016 at 1:55 pm

@K -I said “SEEM to think” because I’m judging it based on their actions. Much of this is from first-hand interactions over time. If a woman says she has forgiven, but then fails to show any of what forgiving means, I don’t think she has forgiven.

I’m doing a sermon on grace this Sunday, and what I’m finding is pretty scary. If we take the parable of the unmerciful servant (Matthew 18:21-35) literally, most of us are in deep doo doo. I’m all about healing and growth, but when I look at the Bible I don’t see any room to delay grace and forgiveness while we deal with our own stuff.
You ask me what grace and forgiveness look like. I am starting to realise what God expects them to look like is a long way from what I have done in my life.
My working theory is we have created a process we call healing that eventually gets some who try it to more or less where God wants them. But this is not God’s way, it’s man’s way. God’s way is much harder. I don’t want to do it myself, much less suggest others do it.

As to sin and porn, it’s like we have categories of sin, and porn is in the grey category. I’ve had people tell me it’s not really right, but it’s not sin. What does that even mean?
As to getting help, I fear much of what is offered as help is not. Some of it causes deep shame, which is not how God works and does not help anyone get out of porn. Some of it preaches slow change is good, and I don’t find that in the Bible.
I’ve men tell me they are addicted to porn. They are not. Addicted is “I know shooting up again could kill me, but I will still do it.” Addicted is “I know stealing this thing I don’t need could land me in jail, but I will still do it.” If a man thought his next use of porn had a very good chance of landing him in jail or the morgue, and he still did it, then I’d say he’s addicted. Most men would stop if that was their reality. This suggests to me they don’t want to stop – at least not enough to overcome whatever they get out of doing it. Porn is like comfort eating, not heroin use.

Sorry if this is kind of scattered. Woking on this sermon is doing a real number on me.
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K November 4, 2016 at 2:56 pm

@Paul,
I hope your sermon goes well. Your response was not scattered. It pretty much confirms what I believe you think and feel about the subject.

We don’t agree on most of this and probably never will. We do agree that people should forgive and extend grace. We just have very different views of what that looks like as humans dealing with traumatic situations.

It would be great for both women and men if forgiveness and grace played out in our lives the way they do with God and Jesus. Forgive and the slate gets wiped clean. Unfortunately, we are human and it’s virtually impossible for us forget and start over as if nothing ever happened like God does. We can, however, forgive the debt owed us and never expect it to get paid back. How our brains act and process things can’t just be dismissed in this whole process.

I’m not trying to convince you, and you cannot convince me. I just hope women and men who read this will seek out help if they need it and not just believe they are not doing what God intends if they can’t just forgive, forget and move on as if nothing ever happened in the marriage.

Paul Byerly November 5, 2016 at 1:14 pm

@K – I guess the question is the area between what most people do and what the Bible seems to suggest we should and therefore can do.
I’ve hardly “arrived” on that so I’m not standing here saying “do what I do”. But when I look at the Bible it seems God is asking me to go much further than I usually do with both forgiveness and grace.
I have no doubt God can help me do what He’s called me to do. The problem is my own fear and unwillingness. For example, I’ve learned holding a grudge is bad for me, but the urge to do it is still strong when I feel wronged.

BTW, I don’t think forgiveness makes the same as if it never happened. The prodigal son was fully forgiven, received back as a son, and given unbelievable grace. But he had still spent his part of the inheritance and I don’t think that would change.
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