LDS View | How a Recovering Porn Addict Can Help a Spouse Heal from the Damage of Living with Addiction

Rebuilding trust while recovering from porn addiction requires a lot of humility, understanding–and effort.

I want to start by saying that I am not a marriage counselor or an expert on marriage relationships. I am an LDS woman whose world fell apart two years ago when my husband disclosed that he had a sex addiction and then disclosed the full extent of his acting out. That started me on a journey to heal from and understand sex addiction.

I don’t want to go into all the details of my situation but can sum it up with this: my Mormon husband’s sex addiction was progressive and he went from viewing pornography and masturbating to acting out with other people.

Since disclosure, I have read everything I could find about sex addiction. I’ve found S-Anon and attend weekly with many other LDS women. I meet regularly with a counselor. I meet regularly with my church leaders. I actively work a 12-step program. I have found enormous help and support from all these resources.

In my two years of recovery I’ve talked with hundreds of women (many of them are LDS) in my same or similar situation about their experience and recovery from their husbands’ sex addiction. Some of the biggest problems voiced are that the wives of addicts feel hurt and frustrated that their husbands don’t “get it” and that their husbands don’t take active steps to help them feel safe.

Now, it’s a slippery slope to make suggestions on how a husband can help his wife without getting into some co-dependent, co-addiction, care-taking discussions. I have learned that if I depend on my husband, or anyone, to make me happy I am not in a healthy place. But I want to share things that helped me and might help others.

Ways to Show Your Wife that You “Get It”

1- Admit that what you did was wrong.

This is the first and most important step. Do not play the victim and blame your act out behavior on your family of origin, clueless church leaders, dissatisfaction with your wife’s body shape or size or lack of attention. Until you can admit that you did something wrong, regardless of any contributing factors, real healing cannot occur.

2- Try to understand the pain your wife is feeling.

Although your actions may not have been intended to cause your wife harm, they have. Her self esteem has been shattered. Wives want to be loved. We want to be “the chosen one.” Whether it’s rational thinking or not, we don’t want to have to compete or compare ourselves to other women, in real life or on a computer monitor. The thought of not being enough or good enough to keep our husband’s attention, interest and loyalty is heartbreaking. Because of the personal nature of sex addiction, we also carry the added of shame of not being able to share our pain with family and friends. We are hurting and we can’t reach out for help. Let us cry in front of you. Ask how we are doing. Ask if there’s anything you can do to help ease the pain we are feeling. Expect that it will take time for us to heal.

3- Don’t avoid or ignore the topic.

Don’t let sex addiction become “the elephant in the room” that no one talks about. Even if you are both doing well in recovery, and even if a lot of time has passed since you last talked about it, it still needs to be talked about. There will be lots of “triggers” for her because of your act out behavior. When you see or sense that your wife is triggered, don’t ignore it! Say things like, “I’m sorry for the pain I have caused” or “I love you and I’m sorry you’re hurting.” Let your wife know that you recognize that she’s hurting and haven’t forgotten about the pain you’ve caused. It opens communication and can allow real healing to take place. The longer you avoid talking about it, the longer it will take for the healing to begin.

Ways to Help Your Wife Feel Safe

1- Be completely transparent.

There should be no secret accounts, passwords, credit cards, email addresses or electronic devices—Especially if they have been used in the past for acting out.

2- Account for all your time and money.

If you are going to be late, or have a change of plans, let your wife know. She shouldn’t ever have to ask or wonder where you are, especially in early recovery. Be open about money and what it’s spent on. Do not be defensive if asked about time or money.

3- Show your wife “Recovery Behavior.”

Recovery behavior is doing things that contribute to your sobriety. Attend SA meetings, get a sponsor, work a 12-step program, meet with a counselor that specializes in addiction, go with her to a marriage counselor, meet regularly with your Bishop, talk about the insights you are gaining and new things you are learning.

4- Regularly share your goals.

Even if you are struggling with staying sober it helps to know that you want to be sober. Let your wife know that you want to be worthy to go to the temple and that you want to be worthy to hold the Priesthood. Let her know that you share her same goals.

5- Be completely honest.

One of the worst parts of sex addiction is the lies required to hide the act out behavior. If trust is ever to be restored there must be complete honesty. No more lies. Period.

***

My experience has been that when these things happen, healing begins and trust can be restored. I hope more couples can come through this addiction better and stronger that they were before it.

Image 1 credit: By Trust [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

Comments

LDS View | How a Recovering Porn Addict Can Help a Spouse Heal from the Damage of Living with Addiction — 4 Comments

  1. They don’t listen. All this just makes the wives have hope. Mostly, it is a lesson for how to know the husband is NOT in recovery. Every, single, little thing on that list MUST be done. And still, how do you know they have given you EVERY email account and won’t just go out tomorrow and make another one? How can you possibly tell they are being wholly honest? How many ‘human’ mistakes do they get before you have to decide nothing has really changed? Otherwise, trust your gut. They are still lying, still sneaking, still acting out and putting your health, mental, emotional, and physical, at dire risk.

    • This post is directed to men who are actively and honestly working a program of recovery from their sex and pornography addiction. It talks about the things they can do to quit adding to the craziness that the spouse of an addict regularly feels. It is not a list of the things they need to do to get sober. You can find that elsewhere on the site. It is also not a list of things that men can do to fool their wife into to thinking they’re in recovery. If you want the list of things an LDS woman should consider when deciding whether her husband is sober or not, take a look at “Another Letter to the LDS Wife Who Suffers in Silence.”

  2. Love this, thank you! Honesty is #1 thing I need. Can’t have any recovery without honesty. Its interesting how much honesty is the key to everything. Honesty with God, yourself, your spouse, your leader, your therapist, your sponsor etc.