Would We React Differently to Cancer?

An LDS woman’s story of recovery from her husband’s pornography addiction.

My husband has been a pornography addict since he was thirteen years old. He struggled with this addiction all through high school. He was able to stay away from it for several years, but in our second year of marriage, while I was pregnant with our first child, the problem returned and we have battled it ever since.

I have known about my husband’s addiction for over nine of our nearly eleven years of marriage. In that time, it has taken a terrible toll on our family. Both of us have experienced major losses because of this addiction: personally, professionally, emotionally and spiritually. For many years we repeated an endless cycle: He would tell me it wasn’t a problem anymore and I would believe him—or at least pretend I did—while wondering why something felt so wrong in our marriage and our home. When things finally got so bad I could not ignore it anymore, I would confront my husband and he would once again admit to viewing pornography. He would then work to conquer the addiction by “controlling his thoughts,” exercising self-discipline and increasing his spirituality.

Despite his efforts, he was never open about discussing his pornography addiction with me or anyone else. He said that even just discussing it could trigger an “outbreak” so I was afraid to bring it up. I desperately tried—against my better judgment—to believe that pornography wasn’t a problem anymore (still wondering why things felt wrong in our marriage somehow) until something would bring it to the surface again and the cycle would start over.

We tried counseling for a while but it “didn’t help him,” or it “took too much time and money,” and he would eventually quit. I read about 12-Step programs so we bought some workbooks and tried working on those on our own. We even moved to a different state to try to get into a better situation where it wouldn’t be such a temptation, but none of these things were enough to bring lasting change.

Meanwhile, I felt like I was going crazy. Something still seemed wrong in our marriage. I would feel anxious and panicky and then tell myself it was nothing. I never caught my husband looking at it or had any proof, so I just convinced myself that I was being overly suspicious and paranoid. Whenever the problem surfaced, I blamed myself. I felt like it was my fault for not being attractive enough or just “letting myself go” after having children. I tried going to counseling but my husband strongly discouraged it. I thought about going to a 12-Step group, but I had kids and didn’t feel like I had time for that. I went for years without telling a single person about his addiction. I felt like I needed to ask my husband’s permission before doing anything. I was afraid of him and yet afraid of losing him. I felt completely alone.

This fall, through a series of circumstances (I believe it was God’s hand in my life), I ended up talking to a woman who had been through a similar experience with her husband. I had believed that pornography hadn’t been a major problem for my husband for the past several years, but this summer I was starting to become uncomfortable again with the way he was acting and treating me. I attributed the changes to stress at work but still felt in my gut like something wasn’t right. This woman told me that, from her experience, it sounded like my husband was not in recovery from his addiction and never had been. This was very hard to hear but I recognized it as the truth. She offered to become my “sponsor”—a mentor who guides you through the process of recovery—and I started working a 12-Step program through S-Anon, a 12-step group for spouses or family members of sex addicts.


Comments

Would We React Differently to Cancer? — 6 Comments

  1. Is he spending money on this addiction? If not, what is the problem with what he is doing in his off time? Obviously it is not a productive use of time but does it really hurt anyone? If his addiction takes away from your marriage then maybe. My initial reaction is that you have the problem thinking about what he is doing and not him. Is it possible you are disturbed by the thought of what he is doing and feel it takes away from your marriage?

    • L: One of the big issues that we’re are shouting about at RowboatandMarbles.org is that pornography consumption hurts not only the user but also the user’s spouse and children–and often in unexpected ways. The book He Restoreth My Soul: Understanding and Breaking the Chemical and Spiritual Chains of Pornography Addiction Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, by LDS neurosurgeon Donald L. Hilton, sets forth the neurological basis for how pornography changes the brain. It changes who we are, how we behave and how we interact with others. The harm is not limited to a sexual context–which is what most people assume. Pornography consumption damages people spiritually, mentally, emotionally and physically and neurologically. It is not a harmless pastime! And spouses of porn addicts are not crazy and over-reacting when they express their pain and displeasure with the behavior.

      Dr. Jill C. Manning has written a great book for teens (and adults) entitled What’s the Big Deal About Pornography: A Guide for the Internet Generation in which she lays out in clear terms how pornography impairs the consumers’ ability to engage with and relate to everyone around them and not just members of the opposite sex.

      I encourage you to read “The ABCs of Addiction: The Real Reasons Why So Many LDS Men Can’t Kick the Pornography Problem” on this website. It takes a serious look at the problem of pornography from the eyes of an addict whose life was nearly destroyed by porn.

      On RowboatAndMarbles.org, we’re not really trying to convince people who see no problem with porn to change their minds. What we are doing, however, is trying to reassure those people who do feel like something’s not right in their lives because of porn that they’re not crazy. It’s OK to feel hurt and damaged by someone’s pornography consumption. It’s OK to be worried about its effect on marriage and family relationships. It’s OK to believe that lust addiction can impair and destroy a married couple’s intimacy on all levels.

      I urge caution in ever criticizing the wife of a porn addict and suggesting that she is overreacting or that the problem is really just inside her head. Pornography consumption harms people. It is definitely a big deal!

  2. As the author of this essay, I wanted to respond to L’s question: “Is he spending money on this addiction? If not, what is the problem with what he is doing in his off time?… does it really hurt anyone?”

    As a side note, I don’t think whether or not money is spent on something is an accurate measure of whether it is causing harm (frankly, it’s a bit of a ridiculous measure– Is cocaine not damaging as long as you get it for free?). But it is a fair question to ask what specific harm porn causes or whether it hurts anyone. In brief, yes, my husband’s sex addiction has cost our family thousands of dollars and has had far-reaching impact on his and my physical and mental health and his career.

    I think the most devastating impact is not directly through the sexual acting out, but 1) In the breach of trust through the lies, double life and trying to cover up and 2) The changes caused to his personality when he looks at porn. It is like living with Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde. Usually my husband is a kind, caring, compassionate, successful, loving man. But when he is in his addiction– looking at porn, masturbating, going to strip clubs– even if I don’t know what is going on, he acts totally different. He is critical of me, angry, moody, and self-centered. He disengages from participating in our family and does not spend time with me or our children. He will become very unreliable at keeping his word or doing what he said he would do. He treats me as an object to be used instead of a human being to be respected. The hardest thing about porn is the way that it changes my husband from a person that I love and trust into a stranger that I don’t know and am afraid of.

    But while you’re asking about financial impact, I might as well comment on that. My husband was a Ph.D. candidate at one of the top universities in the country. What started as “occasional” porn use became an almost daily obsession. He had to leave his program (four years in) because he stopped making progress in his Ph.D research because he was compulsively looking at pornography at work instead of doing research for his professor. After he left his Ph.D. program for 8 weeks of intensive treatment (which was not exactly free), the porn use later returned and caused problems that including lying to his boss at work, putting his job at risk. In the past two years have spent at least $5000 on therapy and $6000 on group therapy (and still going!), not to mention the money for babysitters, the gas to drive to appointments and 12-step meetings that are at least 30 minutes away and the time off from work to do all of this stuff. This makes the past hundred here, two hundred there spent at strip clubs and “massage” parlors seem like drops in the bucket.

    But who am I to say that there is a problem with what he is doing in his off time?

    • Thanks for the perspective, Katie, and for reminding us that sex and porn addiction is NOT benign behavior. It messes up the addict and it messes up everyone around him.

  3. I lost my home and everything with it because of my husbands porn and strip clubs habits. Don’t forget the alcohol. He also had a secret lady friend. I gave him a chance again but I can see his porn watching did not stop. I feel betrayed. Needless to say he is jobless. I feel he is only using me now for a roof over his head and food. He says he loves me and I do love him but I don’t know if I can go on like this. I can’t tell my friends how hurt I am deep inside. I hate porn and stripclubs. I hate my own body. My pshycologist said forgive and forget but I can’t. What is wrong with me?

    • There is NOTHING wrong with you! forgive and forget is so difficult when your heart has been broken and your life seems like a lie….If he is NOT making every effort to stop then you need to care enough about you to move on. I always told my children you will never find the right one has long as you are with the wrong one. You need to love you….Good luck my friend I know so well your pain!

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