Relationship Connection: My husband isn’t motivated to seek help for his pornography, sex addiction

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Question

About a year and a half ago, my husband betrayed me sexually for the first time in our four-year marriage. Prior to marriage, I was aware that he had struggled with pornography addiction and other sexual compulsions but was told that it had been resolved. Early in our marriage, however, I began to feel like his addictive patterns were still affecting our marriage.

When asked about my concerns by counselors, I couldn’t put a finger on what behaviors exactly indicated this for me. Then his lapse a year and a half ago happened. Since then, he has done some self-help reading, but we haven’t been to see anyone professional.

The memory of his acting out still haunts me, and I have anxiety attacks and depression because of it. I don’t want to make him feel shame because that only feeds the addiction, and then he thinks everything is fine. But the issues surrounding this addiction are far from resolved and are negatively affecting me and our marriage on a daily basis.

When I bring up counseling and more in-depth recovery work, he doesn’t seem particularly motivated. How do I help him see what this is doing to me and our marriage without shaming him and making the problem worse? How do I help him understand that this is more than a one-time mistake and is a pervasive pattern of behavior with the potential to destroy the eternal covenants we made if not actively addressed now? How do I kindly but firmly assert my feelings of pain, distrust, anxiety, insecurity and hurt that he has caused me without causing him deep wounds as well?

Answer

It makes sense that you’re worried about the future stability of your marriage. Your husband reassured you that his addictive patterns were addressed before you married but then they show up a few years into the marriage.

This usually creates a crisis where he focuses on changing a few things and then eventually life settles into a familiar routine until another relapse happens down the road. This pattern leaves both of you living in low-grade misery while you wait for the next crisis. I agree with you that it’s not smart to minimize this, brush it off and hope for the best.

I’m also not surprised that your husband is defensive about this. He probably feels foolish and ashamed that something he thought he had managed has come back to haunt him. And it’s likely he feels afraid. Most individuals who struggle with addictive and compulsive behaviors live in fear that they’ll mess up again. They don’t necessarily understand why it keeps happening or when it will happen. They just cross their fingers, per se, and hope that it goes away. So when you bring it up, you’re essentially pressing on that fear and disrupting the magical thinking that is holding everything together in a fragile container.

You love your husband and don’t want to cause him more pain. You worry about setting off a chain reaction of pain leading to more numbing through addiction. Here’s something I want you to remember. If your sincere and loving concerns send him into an addictive tailspin, he’s not in a healthy recovery. He might not be engaging in the harmful behaviors of crossing sexual boundaries, but his internal emotional world isn’t settled or balanced.

Healthy long-term healing is only possible when change happens from the inside out. Most efforts in stopping addiction focus on changing the outside but ignore the inside.

Please don’t let your fear of igniting an emotional chain reaction keep you from bringing up your concerns. If he’s got a calm and balanced interior, then your fears and concerns will be heard and absorbed with understanding and compassion, even if it’s a bit painful for him.

Individuals who are working a strong recovery program aren’t afraid of pain and discomfort. They’re regularly practicing increasing their tolerance of stress and discomfort by facing their own weaknesses, asking for support and staying accountable. In other words, if he’s as healthy as he claims, your fears won’t tip him over.

I’m not recommending you inflict pain on him, but I am recommending that you use your voice to let him know how all of this affects you. Even though you can’t be responsible for how he responds to your concerns, you can take personal responsibility to make sure you bring things up in the healthiest way possible.

It’s natural to want to focus on the problem, which he’ll likely hear as, “you’re a problem.” Again, you can’t control how he hears things, but I find that our partner can hear us better if we talk about them as the solution instead of the problem. The truth is that your husband’s care and concern for your worries is a solution that will bring peace to your relationship. Even though there is a problem, you are coming to him because he is the solution.

When you speak to him about this, you can let him know how safe and secure you feel when he is protecting you and your marriage from these threats. Let him know that you are bringing this to him because his willingness to take it seriously draws you closer to him. You want these threats out of the way so you can stay close and secure with him. Emphasize how important he is to you and how terrifying it is to imagine a future without him.

We often don’t speak with this much vulnerability to our partners, especially when we’re hurt and afraid. It can feel risky, but it’s also easier for our spouse to respond to us when they know they matter.

If this softer approach doesn’t lead to meaningful conversations and commitments to do things differently in the recovery process, please make sure you seek ongoing support for yourself so you can learn how to set appropriate limits with him and continue communicating your needs.

Your willingness to illuminate the reality of your situation through words and boundaries will make it clear what you’re willing to tolerate and what you’re not willing to tolerate. You can bring these things to him in a soft and kind manner, but, ultimately, his response isn’t your responsibility.

Stay connected!

Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in St. George, Utah. He specializes in working with couples in all stages of their relationships. The opinions stated in this article are his own and may not be representative of St. George News.

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Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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19 Comments

  • ladybugavenger December 19, 2018 at 6:49 pm

    Shame him, divorce him, move on

    • sagbronco December 19, 2018 at 7:47 pm

      You are sick and deranged. If you frigid mormon chicks would put out more than once a year, there would be a lot fewer porn issues.

      • ladybugavenger December 19, 2018 at 8:18 pm

        Haha! You think I’m Mormon 😜 not part of that cult. I guess you’re part of the pornography cult.

        • Hugh December 20, 2018 at 2:15 pm

          It tells me that at BEST you know 1/2 of the story and I STRONGLY suspect that you are hearing 1/2 or a VERY biases opinion. That being said, shame away and when someone does the same to you with an ABSOLUTE lack of a full picture. Then perhaps you will understand that there is a MUCH larger story that you should perhaps understand before make such knee jerk reactions….My thoughts, YMMV

          • ladybugavenger December 20, 2018 at 4:44 pm

            What is YMMV

      • Redbud December 20, 2018 at 2:02 pm

        Sagbronco, I laughed at your comment because I thought it was funny, but it’s also true. I know many guys who get frustrated with their wives, and binge on porn to get their release. I am not saying all women are bad and withhold sex from their spouses, there are many women who don’t do this, but there are also a lot who do. Guys have needs, and if they’re not getting it from their spouse, they’ll get it from somewhere else. I’m not trying to say it’s right or wrong, but it is what it is.

        • ladybugavenger December 20, 2018 at 6:55 pm

           “Guys have needs, and if they’re not getting it from their spouse, they’ll get it from somewhere else.” Sounds like adultery. A divorce because of adultery is acceptable in the eyes of God.

  • Comment December 19, 2018 at 9:00 pm

    I sometimes wonder if I’ve been damaged by all the porn I’ve viewed. I really don’t know how to describe it. Once seen, can’t be unseen. That’s why I feel like it’s important for you people to keep your little 8+ year olds from using the internet unsupervised. Your average 9 year old can search and find porn within a quick 5 minutes of unsupervised use. I think it causes children psychological harm. Just the absolutely vast amounts of the stuff. For all practical purposes it’s infinite in it’s amounts. New material is produced so fast that one could spend 24/7 watching and they’d need several lifetimes to see it all. The first hit on google takes you to the top sites, that, I think, have actually millions of free videos. I don’t even have kids but I still worry about this stuff. So you know it must be bad.

    Personally, I’ve watched so much porn I’m actually just bored of it. It just doesn’t do it for me. One thing I read said that something like 50% of people watch porn on the net daily, and 90% of that 50% were men. Now, I’m not real good at math, but what does that tell us?

    • sagbronco December 20, 2018 at 11:54 am

      The good news is that women are the fastest growing segment of the population that is consuming porn, so they will soon be at parity.

      • Comment December 20, 2018 at 1:53 pm

        I don’t know what to think of it

    • Hugh December 20, 2018 at 2:17 pm

      would LOVE to see your numbers. The data that I have read is that ANY disparity between the sexes is almost already vanished. What it tells me (BSME and a Minor in Math) that you need to get better data. Some ACTUAL data

      • Comment December 20, 2018 at 4:36 pm

        Rather than whining and being snarky for the sake of being snarky, go ahead and find your own numbers and post them. I actually don’t care. The main point of my post was about keeping kids away from porn.

        • Comment December 20, 2018 at 7:42 pm

          Here’s where I got those numbers. Yes, I said READ, but I didn’t read it. I sad READ because I’m too lazy to type out “I HEARD IT IN A VIDEO FROM SOME GUY ON YOUTUBE”. So I heard it in this video. And I have no idea at what time mark. Watch the entire hour and a half if you like and go fact checking to your heart’s delight. I actually don’t find porn viewership stats interesting enough to look into it. It’s also a good video, but it only mentions those numbers very briefly at some point within the entire 1-1/2 hours.

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dmXcjvL9VSc

          😉

      • 42214 December 20, 2018 at 7:05 pm

        Love your creative style of using capital letters to REALLY emphasize your point. My granddaughter uses the same technique with her 12 year old friends.

  • ladybugavenger December 20, 2018 at 4:50 pm

    Well well well it is certainly remarkable how the women get blamed for a porn watching man. Porn is a personal problem. Not an external problem. Get a divorce and go watch your porn if that’s what you want. No couple should be married to a porn watcher. It’s all fun and games until it’s not.

    • Redbud December 20, 2018 at 6:55 pm

      Ladybug, I partially agree with you. I think it’s best if porn is kept out of a relationship. Also, I do realize that a lot of times it’s the man who is most to blame. But let’s just say the man marries a woman, everything is perfect, and then she becomes a total hag that withholds after every argument for weeks, or even months at a time, what is a man left to do, especially if it’s not his fault? In those instances, I can see exactly why a guy will look at porn. When keeping a woman happy becomes too much work than it should be, it’s just far too easy to solve the situation with your left hand, unscented lotion, and a box of kleenex in front of a screen. Again, not saying it’s right, but a guy’s gots needs, and he’s gonna get it from somewhere if he ain’t gettin any from her. Not saying it’s right but who can blame them when trapped in an unhappy marriage? I know women consider porn cheating, but at least it ain’t cheatin with a real live woman. No risk of pregnancies, STDs’, and it helps keep the peace.

      • ladybugavenger December 20, 2018 at 9:22 pm

        Well, Redbud, I’d have to say if she becomes a hag and does what you speak of then the marriage is doomed because shes not happy at all and it is probable that she is looking outside the marriage for someone to rescue her.

        It’s still cheating. Cheating of the heart. . It’s just no std.

        • Redbud December 20, 2018 at 10:20 pm

          Ladybug, I totally understand your point of view, fair enough! Merry Christmas!

          • ladybugavenger December 21, 2018 at 6:09 pm

            Merry Chrismas!

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