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Maria was devastated. She had opened her husband’s phone looking for a link to a website when she found a folder containing his collection of pornography. Even though she had no reasons to suspect that her husband had ever had an affair, she couldn’t shake the feeling that he had betrayed her, and their marriage bed. What next?

Maria isn’t alone in her feelings of hurt, anger, and betrayal. While an increasing number of women are using pornography, it is still used more by men than by women. And, while our culture works hard to convince us that pornography is acceptable, many women can’t escape the sense of hurt when they discover that their partner regularly uses pornography. You may be one of them: you may have caught your husband watching porn on his computer late at night or you may have accidentally stumbled on to his browsing history. But now you’re left with the pain of a spouse who is looking outside of your marriage for sexual enjoyment. It’s normal to feel a range of feelings: Anger (“how could they do this to me?”), abandonment (“does this mean I’m not good enough for him?”), humiliation (“he must think I’m unattractive, compared to those women”), confusion (“why was she hiding this from me?”), or even determination (“we will get through this.”). What should you do next?

Recognize the problem

Before you begin to address this matter with your spouse, there are a couple of things to keep in mind that will shape the conversation going forward. First of all, recognize that pornography is a sin and it violates God’s purpose for marriage because it opens the sexual intimacy meant for husband and wife to strangers. God intends husbands and wives to “drink deeply” of sexual enjoyment from one another, but including even images of others engaged in sexual activity violates what God intends. This is important because our culture works hard to convince us that pornography is harmless, and that every normal person uses porn. Your spouse may try to justify or minimize their porn use in that way, leading you to question your own response. Remember, just because something is “normal” in our world does not mean that it’s “acceptable” in God’s sight.

Second, recognize that pornography is a powerful compulsion and it holds many in their grip. Your husband or your wife may have first stumbled upon pornography as a pre-teen, and they may have tried numerous times to break their habit only to stumble again. It’s possible, then, that their habit may leave them feeling deeply ashamed and powerless. Understand that this does not excuse their actions, but it might shape how you have the conversation with your spouse.

Take it to God

Let your reflex be to take your concerns to God. Start with prayer before moving to confrontation. If we start with God, he can soften our hearts and and carry our anger so that we can communicate in a more effective manner. Ask God to give you fresh eyes to see our spouse as God sees them- hurting and broken and needing grace and accountability. Seek God's wisdom for approaching the subject with compassion as well as strength for breaking the stronghold of addiction in the life of your spouse. Prayer is important for laying our burdens down and equipping us for the challenges before us.

Start a conversation

After you have had time to initially process your reaction, it’s important to open a dialogue with your spouse. In a calm manner explain that you have found pornography, and give them a chance to respond. How they react will influence your response. If they deny or minimize the problem, your focus will be on helping them understand why pornography is hurtful to you, and destructive to your marriage. If they are ashamed or if they acknowledge that what they are doing is wrong, your focus can be on collaborating on breaking their habit. In either case, it’s important for you that you express clearly how their actions have affected you. Put your emotions into words, while refraining from direct accusations: “Knowing that you look at porn makes me feel inadequate as a wife,” rather than “You don’t care about me at all!” Allow them a chance to respond, and to express whatever they need to say.

Seek Help

Ideally, an experience such as this can become a growth opportunity for you as a couple. Breaking free from the grip of pornography is difficult, but will lead to a more fulfilling marriage. Enlist the help of a professional Christian counselor who specializes in marriage (for the purpose of understanding how the use of porn effects you as a couple, and to help you strategize how to break this habit). A Christian counselor can help identify underlying issues that may be at play, and how to work through them.

Additionally, you will need others to walk with you on the road ahead. Find a trusted, mature Christian person or couple that you can confide in. This won’t be easy; opening up about our private weaknesses is not something we usually embrace. But finding someone that your spouse can trust serves as an accountability partner for the spouse who is trying to break free of pornography, and finding someone you can trust can become a place of encouragement, comfort, and support as you walk forward.

Today, you may be in a place that feels helpless, and hopeless. But you are not alone! Many have experienced the same hurt, anger, and pain that you have experienced. But more than that, Jesus is a savior who walks with us and helps us break free of the power of sin, and who blesses his people with comfort and strength--and when you turn to him, you find what you need to heal.

 

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