If there are certain things you shouldn’t tell your spouse about your porn addiction, it must mean there are important things s/he does needs to know. First and foremost, that you are using pornography.
Confessing to your spouse, either before or after you’ve been caught, is crucial for your recovery and for your marriage to be healthy and whole. Secrets like this kill relationships. They breed darkness and shame. One of the greatest things in life is to have relationships where we are fully known and fully loved. If we harbor our sins, we will never be fully known and will always doubt whether or not we are loved because of who we truly are or for the image we project.
Honesty is of prime importance, but so is knowing what is appropriate to reveal. Here are two things you can plan on leaving out of this conversation.
1. Your Spouse Doesn’t Need the Gory Details
In our situation, I first found out about my husband’s addiction alone in a room on his computer when I started typing in the URL bar. Though the title of the webpage very clearly indicated that I would be taken to pornography, my disbelief and shock compelled me to check it out.
I wish I hadn’t.
I can still see those images when I recall the circumstances, even though this event happened seventeen years ago. The truth is, however, one doesn’t have to actually see something in order to form an image in our mind. If that was the case, books would be incredibly boring, right? When you tell your spouse about your porn use, you can leave out the gory details. She doesn’t need you to recreate the scene or let her in on what you like in your fantasy world. She definitely doesn’t need you to actually show her what you’ve been viewing.
What this does to your spouse:
- These details can create unpleasant mental images, which can lead to traumatic flashbacks and increased distress.
- It’s been well documented that social media and pornographic images of women have distorted both gender’s views on what constitutes a beautiful, sexually-appealing female. The last thing your spouse needs is to come face-to-face with unhealthy expectations and unmeetable standards. She is already feeling insecure in herself and in your relationship and this will only exacerbate the situation and lead to even worse consequences.
- When her world has been rocked with your confession, a myriad of thoughts and emotions will pass through your spouse’s mind. One of those thoughts may be that not only does she needs to conform herself to look like these images, but to be pleasing to you, she must also act in the same ways. But physical intimacy within the context of marriage is the opposite of what happens in pornography. You don’t truly want her acting like the porn star on the screen, nor do you want her to feel the pressure of her doing something doesn’t want to do.
What to do instead:
- Affirm that your pornography use is not about her—who she is, what she does, or what she looks like.
- Share (if you know already) what is behind your addiction, i.e. “I’ve been looking at porn since eighth grade and I haven’t yet been able to cut it out of my life” or “Every time I get stressed, I’ve turned to porn to try to escape because I didn’t know how to talk about it.”
- Validate her feelings of betrayal, shock, anger, sadness, or whatever else comes out and don’t justify your porn use with something like “All I’m doing is looking at pictures.”
2. Your Spouse Doesn’t Need the Half-Truths
When you do tell your wife about your addiction, it may be tempting to only tell her pieces of your story in an effort not to overwhelm her. But think about it this way: if you were majorly injured playing your sport and had to have surgery, you’d be a little hesitant to perhaps engage in your sport in the same manner after you’ve begun to recover. You’d be more protective, tread a little more lightly. You’d ease into doing things that you used to take for granted because you felt safe and secure doing them before the injury. Overtime, though, with the right physical therapy and support, you’re pretty likely to get back in the game.
One injury is traumatic. But what if instead of one big blow, every time you got on the field, you hurt something—not bad enough to have surgery, but still incredibly painful: a twisted ankle, a broken forearm, a concussion. After every practice, something would go wrong and you’d feel more and more beat up, injury compounding injury. How long until you give up going to the fields?
Lest you’re considering expanding the sports analogy, I’ll tell you why we end it here. Sure, in sports, the more you train, the more you can do, the more your body can handle. But, confessing your addiction to your spouse is not an endurance sport. You may be tempted to think you’re building her resilience by giving her small things and that will help her work up and be able to handle the big things. But your brain is not a muscle and it doesn’t recover or process trauma in the same way as your muscular system.
What this does to your wife:
- Half-truths only intensify her trauma. If you share part of your story and she thinks she knows the full extent, the next time you further reveal details or events surrounding your addiction, she will experience both the new trauma and re-live the entire first round. This is compounding trauma.
- It makes her unable to begin to trust you again because she never knows when the story is really out. If you confess piecemeal, she will fear there’s going to be something around another corner down the road.
What to do instead:
- Prior to talking with her, think through your whole story and what you need to tell her.For example, if your story includes watching porn AND corresponding with someone from a pornographic or dating website, make a plan on how you will stay the course of confession, knowing it’s going to be hard and you may be tempted to stop after her reaction about the first thing. It may be helpful to role-play this with a trusted friend, counselor, or pastor.
- Know she will probably ask you a lot of questions.Pray and ask God to give you the strength to answer each one honestly and carefully. Pray also for your wife before you tell her.
This is will be a difficult conversation for both of you. It will rock your spouse’s world and will feel like the foundation of your relationship is gone. However, through this conversation, you also have the opportunity to begin to lay a new foundation and to rebuild something out of the rubble. We serve a God of restoration and reconciliation and with Him, all things are possible.
Source: Covenant Eyes