What I Wish I Had Known the First Time I Caught My Husband Looking at Porn #hopelds

 

This is the third in a series of posts addressing education on and recovery from pornography addiction and betrayal trauma.  Please send questions that you have to hopeandhealinglds(at)gmail(dot)com.  

Keep following our series at hopeandhealinglds.com #HopeLDS or ldsmag.com, as we may address your questions in future posts.

“My spiritual armor was never complete until knowledge about fighting addiction became a part of my life.”

When I was a 24-year-old new mom I caught my husband looking at pornography on our computer for the very first time. I didn’t know anything about pornography addiction. The Internet was brand new.  Who knew this smut even existed on this thing called the World Wide Web? I naively believed him when he told me it was a two-month problem.  It never even crossed my mind that he could be an addict. I had absolutely no idea what follow-up questions to even ask him.

I needed an education on addiction, but that education would sadly have to wait another 16 years, until I caught him yet again. The evidence, coupled with all the talk I heard about addiction from my friends and on those 5th-Sunday lessons at church, finally opened my eyes. My husband was an addict.

How I wish I could go back in time, take my young, tender-hearted self out for ice cream, and say, “Oh Sweetie, sweetie, here’s what you need to understand. At least learn these three things. There is more to learn, but for now these three could change your life.”  

1st pic

The first thing I needed to understand when I was 24 was this: Pornography is a branch on the addiction tree; it is not the addiction. The real addiction is lust.  Addicts feed their lust addiction with pornography. But an addict also feeds his (or her) lust addiction with other sexual habits: sexually explicit books, chat rooms, fantasies about women (or men), masturbation, sexually suggestive TV shows and movies. I thought I stopped my husband’s “little problem” after the first time I caught him because I controlled the password to our dinosaur-dial-up Internet service. Presto! No more pornography problem! What I didn’t realize was that all I did was cut off one of the branches. There were other branches he continued using to feed his lust addiction. Oh, and the pornography branch eventually grew back as well. The branches always grow back. You gotta chop down the lust tree, and then kill the roots of fear, shame, low self worth, and isolation.

The second thing my younger self needed to understand was: What exactly is an addiction? When does viewing pornography go from “just a little problem” to an addiction? Well, I don’t want to get bogged down in the clinical details of when bad behavior turns compulsive, someone else can do that, but here’s one very simple definition that cleared it all up for me: If he wants to stop, but always returns, a day later or a year later, it’s an addiction. Call it an addiction, a problem, or a bad habit. The remedy is the same. All bad habits or addictions require time and effort to solve. That’s what my 24-year self didn’t understand. I simply told my husband, “Just stop!”

2nd pic

 

“Just stop!” requires no effort on his part.

“Just stop!” doesn’t require him to end his isolation and seek out help.

“Just stop!” does not require a lifestyle change.

“Just stop!”’ doesn’t teach him why he does something he knows is wrong.

3rd pic

Saying, “Just stop!” was like wishing on a falling star. No matter how heartfelt my wish, the star kept falling and eventually crashed into something. It crashed into my heart the year I turned 40, shattering my world, shattering my marriage, shattering all trust I had in my husband. This “little problem” I thought was in the past turned out to be a decades-long  addiction.

The third thing I wish I understood is that most often pornography addictions start during adolescence. Yes, grown-mature-LDS men and women can start to view porn in adulthood, but it most often doesn’t work that way. Had I known this, I would have heard an alarm going off in my head when he said it was a two-month problem. Once caught, he tried to minimize the damage by getting me to believe this was a recent problem. I eventually learned my husband was just eleven years old when he was first exposed through a friend in his neighborhood. What does an eleven-year old boy know about what will ruin his life? His future marriage? Nothing. His brain was still developing. And so at the tender age of eleven, my husband found something to help him feel good, to comfort him, to help him cope with low self-esteem.

4th pic

It would have been important for me to know that a young man’s emotional growth is stunted at the age he begins viewing pornography. My husband rarely shared his heartfelt thoughts with me. He was a great listener, but a lousy sharer. He was not able to be “emotionally intimate” with me because in reality he was still that eleven-year old boy. I was starving for emotional intimacy but I thought he was just a “typical guy.” And guys don’t usually share their feelings. Mine never did.

Over the years of our marriage, I very often did feel like I was starving for “emotional intimacy” but chose instead to focus on all the good he did–reading to the children, rubbing my feet, shoveling snow from the walkways at the widow’s house next door, being a good provider, serving faithfully in callings. Now, my 40-something self knows it is ok to expect my husband to open up his heart to me. That really isn’t asking too much. That’s a normal part of all healthy marriages.

5th pic

Thankfully, it is never too late to change. I didn’t know any of these things in my twenties, but it’s never too late to learn. And thankfully it hasn’t been too late for my husband to learn. To grow a new heart. To change his brain. With specialized therapy, the LDS 12-Step program, strong boundaries and rules he set for himself, and accountability to others, he’s experienced nothing short of a complete lifestyle change. All these things have been crucial to becoming a new man. The man God always meant for him to be. There’s a spiritual war going on, not unlike the physical wars in The Book of Mormon. My spiritual armor was never complete until knowledge about fighting addiction became a part of my life. Don’t be afraid to learn more. Knowledge is empowering. Truth gave me hope. It gave us a second chance.

 

Hope for Sexual Addiction

 

Other posts in the series:

Intro: What wives of sex addicts want you to know (see also the Meridian Magazine article; also featured on LDS Living)

Second Post: Before you Marry My Good-Hearted Son (see also the Meridian Magazine article)

112 Responses

  1. Anonymous

    Thank you. I wont get into my story but I do have a question, Did your husband ever become inactive from pornography? My husband is currently inactive but very supportive of me and the kids going to church. He became inactive two years after his deployment….

    • Lorena

      No, my husband has always been very active in the lds church, and always held a calling. I am sorry, that must be so difficult.

  2. My husband has a pornography addiction, but in my case the issue was addressed in the correct channels at church and with his bishop before we married. He is open with me about his struggle and I don’t worry about relapse. However, the part you write about starving for emotional intimacy rings eerily true. My husband seems to have no feelings (I know he does, but we never talk about them.) I know his addiction began in adolescence. Did it change his brain? Where do we go for therapy? Is it important? Or am I overreacting and maybe my husband is just super passive?

    • Whitney

      Jen, I am not the author on this post, but in my experience, to some degree, an addict and the spouse always need to be worried about relapse. I hope that your husband has daily and weekly recovery routines that he follows in order to stay in recovery. If he does not share feelings, he is in danger of resorting back to his addiction to cope with the feelings that he does not share. Connection is the opposite of addiction and all people in recovery need connection. Addiction does change brains, but brains can change back with recovery work. Therapy is usually regarded by experts as a critical part of recovery. Please come join the forum and we can give you some specific advice on how to find a qualified therapist and other support groups.

    • Jen, I know you wrote your question close to a year ago, but I am just reading this article for the first time. I recently just ended a relationship with a young man that I had dated for almost 3 years. He too had problems with pornography and other sex addictions. I’m in my mid twenties, and while I’ve never been married, I do know that I was starving for emotional intimacy with him as well. He was one of the best listeners I’ve ever met and was so kind and loving and wanted nothing more than for me to be happy. But one of the hardest parts of our relationship was that I often felt that I was starving for closeness and for him to share his feelings with me (not just the deep stuff but even the small every-day stuff!). While this may seem trite, I had an “aha” moment in school one day when one of my professors explained that those who do not share their feelings in relationships or who say that they want to help you solve your problems, but don’t want to “burden” you with theirs, are actually doing it because they are afraid of being vulnerable. In ANY way! (not just about their addictions) I don’t know what your husband is like, but my boyfriend was one of the most amazing people I have ever met, yet when one person chooses to not be vulnerable, or to trust openly, a relationship can feel stagnant, and lack true meaning and depth. It was not that my boyfriend didn’t have feelings, he had them, LOTS of them, but he didn’t show them. He didn’t accept them. He didn’t verbalize them. He ignored them and denied them, rather than making them better. And most painfully, I often never even knew that anything was wrong. Three years is a long time though, and I began to get really good at picking up on when he wasn’t genuinely happy. I had to listen to the spirit, and I learned how to address my concerns to him without being accusatory. With practice, and several hours of patience (sometimes several hours at a time), he learned to open up more and more with me. This was so healing for us. The emotional closeness strengthened during these times, and on occasion he would cry, which I was very supportive of. It wasn’t easy, and I had to be diligent with this process because things would often go right back to the way they were. But when we had these small moments, it worked wonders for our relationship, but getting to the point of having them be successful took a really long time. So I guess my point is that no, Jen. You are NOT overreacting. Your husband DOES have feelings, and emotional intimacy is so important. You deserve that closeness. Your marriage can have that. You need to be true to yourself, and how you feel, and follow the influence of the spirit as you work towards this type of healing. I hope this helps you at least know that you’re not alone and that it’s ok to feel how you are feeling.

  3. You sound silly, only he can stop his addiction. No matter how much knowledge you may come up with. He’s had this problem since he was 11. He can’t change.

    • Whitney

      Rita, knowledge is power and those of us who are married to men with sexual addiction become more empowered in our own recoveries the more we know. Knowing the roots of addiction help us have compassion for our husbands as they attempt to find recovery. Although you are correct that only he has the power to choose recovery, we can learn how to set boundaries to keep ourselves safe emotionally and physically, and we can learn how to work on our own character defects in the process. Men and women with this devastating addiction do change. We have seen it happen.

    • Lorena

      Sorry I sound silly to you but I am super confident people can change. (i wrote this article) You must have someone in your life that has caused you immense pain to hold such beliefs. God bless.

      • How can a wife keep herself ‘safe’ and set boundaries whenever her husband refuses to even admit guilit when he acts out? My husband would rather die than admit he’s acted out. I’ve been married over 34 yrs and he has yet to admit it when asked, yet later on after bitter fighting, he admits it then, but it’s too late because my soul has been shattered for about the 1,000th time.

        • admin Michelle

          Annette, I’m so sorry for what you have gone through. Have you ever reached out to a support group? I would encourage you to do so — through the forum we have, through a 12-step group (HealingthroughChrist.org, S-Anon, other 12-step groups), with a therapist who understands betrayal trauma. Fighting with your husband will never make him ‘get it’ — learn to heal within yourself and that process can guide you and the boundaries you can choose to help keep you safe from the harmful elements of his addiction.

        • Whitney

          Annette, I am very sorry for what you have gone through in your marriage and the thousands of times your heart has been shattered. If your husband has been using pornography
          for decades, it is likely that he has a serious illness and addiction and unless he is going to great efforts to free himself of this, it’s safe to assume he is still acting out. In your case I would encourage you to make boundaries with the assumption that your husband is active in his addiction. He doesn’t have to admit to acting out for you to have boundaries. You can set boundaries based on past and current behavior of your husband. I would encourage you to make and hold boundaries until you see some real recovery efforts in your husband. Here’s a resource for what you expect from a husband in recovery: http://utahvalleyaddictionrecovery.com/how-to-help-a-sex-addict/how-do-i-know-if-he-is-in-recovery/

          I would echo what Michelle has said and get some help for your shattered heart and spirit through a qualified therapist, support group like 12 step, etc. If you need more support or ideas on resources to help make boundaries please join our forum and we can give you some ideas.

    • He can’t stop you say bravely. You have that sure knowledge and you’ll over ride what the Savior can do if he’s in line to want it. No one person can ever say with surety what another can or cannot do. Period

      • admin Michelle

        Ann, the reason we talk about how addiction works here at Hope and Healing is NOT to override the Savior’s power. It’s quite the opposite. So your comment actually reflects the heart and soul of this site. 🙂

        The purpose of talking about how addiction works is to invite people to realize that if they can’t stop something on their own, they simply need help. They need Christ!

        There is too much fear, in my opinion, around the word or concept of addiction. That is a code word for “You need Christ.” It’s a hopeful message we seek to share, not one of condemnation, and definitely not one of trying to override the Savior. He is the reason hope and healing are possible for those in addiction and for their loved ones.

        #hopeLDS

  4. Madeline

    Hello there I’m a 68 old mother, grandmother & wife and I am married to a 74 year old man who still watches porn even though he says he does not. We have been married almost 50 years and are sealed in the temple and have 6 awesome kids who are all grown with families of their own. There have been many time that I have gone to counseling to get help for myself to deal with the pain & lack of self respect I have for myself. When my youngest son was 7 my counselor said I had two choices, accept him the way he is or leave him & get a divorce? Well I chose to stay but it has not been easy. Every time I’ve gone to counseling I have invited my husband and he has always declined. He has always said that he can over come on his own but I know he needs the 12 step program. The last time I went was 2 years ago and my counselor is a dear friends and sister in the gospel. She really helped me understand that his habit was not my fault and I could no longer feel guilty for what he does it started long before we ever met & fell in love. Had I known then what I know now would I have married him? I really can not say because way back then it was just something guys thought they had the right to do. He always said it harmed no one. He is a very hard worker, a good provider and good home teacher and fulfill his callings. At this point in time I have to leave it up to our Heavenly Father😌

    • Whitney

      Madeline, I am so sorry for what you have been through. The trauma from being married to and living with someone who is actively watching pornography is terrible. I hope you have found some measure of healing and I hope you continue to seek information, healing, and that you have set up boundaries around your husband’s behaviors to keep yourself safe. I would encourage you to come join us at the forum so you can share with us your story and benefit from the resources and sisterhood found there.

  5. Lisa Kyser

    I have been there done that, and I would love to be able to tell people about my experience. This was a good article and I sure know where you were and where you are. Does this site except articles about experiences. I have some other insights that might be helpful. May I? Lisa Kyser, LDS, St Anthony, ID.

  6. A loving mother

    This is a great artical! First because she does not say that she mentions it casually to everyone she meets because she thinks humiliating him will make him stop! This is what my daughter inlaw did! She never even one time ask him why or even attempted to help! Her first response was her Bishop! And that would have been fine but when she found out that she held some responsibility in his addiction all of a sudden not even the Church knew what they were doing! She wanted to tell us directly to our faces it was our problem, we let it happen now fix it!! Needless to say after sharing what should have been a problem THEY needed to conquer together and when he needed her love and support the most she continued, along with her family to destroy my Son, She left him! That was the answer to love and support! But not before she also shared every minute detail of his addiction, things he had a very hard time sharing with his parents! Things that were hard for them to hear and completely understand. Needless to say she drew a line in the sand that his Children 4 & 8 years old are having a hard time decifering what it all means!! Iam so relieved to share that my Son has since found a women that has loved and supported more than we will ever be able to share! She is the true example of what a loving And supportive true Christen Wife who has proven beyond her years what it is to love someone unconditionally! She knows that there is not a perfect person that can and should sit in judgement of another human being! Iam greatful that he no longer has to feel the true feeling of being abandoned by someone who promised to love for an eternity! I’m so sorry that thier Children will not have his closeness and true happiness on a daily basis! I do believe though that God was there with his love and his support and I know that my Son knows that his “family” was always there for him and that we never let our love waiver in anyway because life got hard and we did not want to be bothered! We ALL EVERYONE OF US have our imperfections and that our faith can and will get us through! It is when we lose that faith or we never even try to find it that we let down so many! We were not put here to just give up, leave our love and support of someone else just because we don’t understand or we just don’t think it’s worth it! Everyone is worth it! I know I cannot or will not ever give up and I pray everyday that no one gives up on me or my family! And I have learned that my Heavenly Father will never give up! Even though I still need to forgive I pray that no one will ever give up on my Grandchildren and most important I hope my no one gives up on my Ex Daughter in law! I hope she never has to feel that feeling of no one having Faith in her! Remember none of us are perfect and none of us should pass judgement on another because someday I believe we each will stand before the only one who has died for that right, who died for each and everyone of us!!

    • Themyscira

      What your first daughter-in-law did was wrong. However, her feelings of betrayal are not unfounded. You mention that she promised to love and support him for eternity. But did he not also do the same? Porn is a betrayal of that promise. While it would have been wonderful if she could have been equipped to handle this issue and help him in his recovery, we can hardly judge her for her feelings. The only thing I would judge her for is telling the whole world about his problem as that is also a betrayal. I’m gad your son has found someone to love and support him, and I see you admit you are still working on forgiveness and don’t want people to give up on your ex-daughter-in-law, which is great! I would just be careful because your paragraph sounds like you are placing blame on her and making it sound like she was the problem in the marriage. Let’s not forget your son also had a part, a serious part, to play in this. And staying in a marriage to help the spouse is not always the right thing.

  7. Thank you. I wish I would have known this too.

  8. usually men watch pron if their frigid wives dont give him enough sex

    • Whitney

      mj, I am not sure where you have heard this information, but it is incorrect. Many women who discover that their husbands use porn try to increase the amount of sex that they have, thinking this will mean that he won’t need porn anymore. It doesn’t work.

      • Anonymous

        Whitney, exactly. I knew about the issue when we got married thinking that after we were married and were intimate that the problem would go away. But it seemed the more intimate we were the more often he would turn to it.

        • Giving your husband more sex and even focusing all of the pleasure on him simply does not work. Believe me, i know. I’ve asked my husband exactly what he likes, how he likes it and how long he likes it and I was available to him 24/7 yet he still chose to act out on that addiction, so the answer to ‘more or ‘better’ sex does not help,,, at all period. Married over 34 yrs and still counting.

    • Anonymous

      I know that what you are saying is not true! It is an excuse, but not the problem! As a young man I was introduced to too much information to say the least! I married my wife in the temple when I was 23! I couldn’t wait, for my lusts to be fulfilled, and sex to be legal in a sense! What I got was continuous disappointment and a struggle for my innocent wife to ever try to please me! She was consistently my prey! I did lust after her, that’s why I married her! Knowing that I did have lust issues that are not heathy for marriage, church, or God, I struggled ever day to be righteous! I do have a testimony! I wanted to be right with God! Nonetheless, it seamed an impossible endeavor! I honestly did not use porn all the time! I did not need to! My mind was sufficient! I really thought that I would not have these desires when I got married! Well, I was wrong! I can’t give all the details of my journey (I am now 48), but I know that people don’t change just because there environment or predicament does! I believe that is why we need to change ourselves with all our heart might mind and strength in the here and now! Because we will take with us, who we are wherever we go! The process of change is a process, not an event! All of the attributes of the spirit are required for healing and change to take place, from all involved! I am not 100% healed or cured! But I know my limitations and where to steer clear from! The rest will up to the atonement!

      • admin

        Anonymous,
        Thanks for sharing your experience and insight and honesty. God bless you in your continued journey and healing process.

    • Mpinwashington

      MJ, I don’t know where you get that concept but is Bull. There are women who give their husband sex daily, are very attentive and the husbands still are not satisfied.

    • I can testify to the fact that it is totally false that men watch porn because they’re wives are frigid! I’ve offered sex to my husband 24/7 days a week but he chooses to masturbate instead. I’ve always been the one who was the giver in bed while i got nothing. I shower twice daily, wear fine perfume, am well groomed and always tried to be a good wife but it got me nowhere. Until you’ve been in my shoes, or anyone else’s whose put up with this addiction, you can never understand the pain we go through. I feel like I’m married to a friend and that’s it. I’ve tried everything to change things, bu they always go back to fantasy and masturbation no matter what. I’ve been married over 34 yrs, so i know where of i speak.

  9. mike

    There’s a lot more to the source of the addiction than “lust.” Pornography addiction is really no different than any other addiction or eating disorder for example. It is an attempt to satisfy an emotional need which usually the user doesn’t know how to meet through better chanels. Often the lack of “emotional intimacy” is not just about the ability to share emotion but a difficulty in receiving emotional support from others. Often it is tied to low self esteem and the fear of not being accepted. Of course addictions like Pornography make these problems worse not better. But it’s important to recognize that the addiction is not to “lust” but to a deeper emotional difficulty.

    • Lorena

      mike, thanks for your thoughtful comment, i believe i said exactly that, the roots are the same for all addictions like you said, low self worth, loneliness, etc.

  10. Stephanie

    Following

    Following…

  11. Notred E. Twotell

    I’m sorry to say that as much insight as you have gained, your on the outside looking in. There is still more to it than what you describe, insight that can only be conveyed from a person that trusts with enough openness and vulnerability to explain the missing pieces and motivating factors. I have fought my Demons without the support of my lovingly neieve judge mental physically closed off wife for 30 years. It will take a lot more for her to understand her role in the problem, as well as the solution.

    • Been.There.

      Wow! I feel like I just hit the replay button on the exact phrases my husband used to describe me during many years of our life with his port addiction. It is hard to take personal responsibility for something that is hard for even you to understand and that you can’t get a handle on. It makes you lash out at your wife, who most likely, loves you more than life itself but doesn’t want to be USED to fulfill your overpowering sexual needs. It’s ironic that it was only after my husband was able to get a hold on his “demons” that he was able to see past his own judgements to see that his wife has been with him for 20 years because she loves him more than life itself. And that if she can love him that much, then maybe HE is worth loving enough to sacrifice his desires for a thrill and stop the cycle of porn. And when that happened, and he connected with her through actual love (not lust) suddenly his wife was willing to share every form of intimacy with him because she could finally trust him. Blaming your spouse for closing herself off from you emotionally is not only heartless and unforgiving,… it is WRONG!!! When you are consumed with your own demons, you seek to blame anyone and everyone because it is SOOOO painful to point that finger back at yourself.

  12. Sometimes it is too late. Like in the case of my late husband who would never get help and died of a drug overdose. I went through everything the author did and more including infidelity, lying, and the destruction of my family.

    • Lorena

      jo i am sorry for your loss, indeed you are right, nobody can change anybody that is for sure. i am grateful my husband wanted to change so badly.

  13. Terry Kelley

    Thank you for your thoughts. It takes a lot of courage to share. I’m a father of 72 and have a sweet daughter 35 that’s going through the same addition problem with her husband. He’s gone through 12 step series, group counseling, visits with Bishop. Nothing seem to work. My daughter did not want to live with a man that was treating her like “a second fiddle” she asked him to move out of the house. After a week of turmoil he final got it, that she was serious. He’s visiting with Bishop and things seem to be better, but I worry that the other things are so easily available for the next fix. I hope and pray that he’s in the repentance process, but I’m concerned.

    • Whitney

      Terry, thank you for sharing your story. It is indeed difficult. It is understandable that you are worried and concerned. You should applaud and support your daughter for setting a boundary for herself that she will not tolerate living with a practicing addict.

  14. Jean Christensen

    I was married to a good returned missionary who had a secret sexual addiction for 25 years. I went to my bishop but he didn’t know what to do (1980s) so felt the solution was keep him busy with callings and he would change….and of course, it had to be my fault because I obviously was not an adequate sex partner.
    We tried counseling at BYU and they “experimented” with him, church counseling (they were baffled) and private counseling(they encouraged him to try more sex partners to satisfy his needs). It eventually involved child abuse and even then he was given the calling teaching children in Primary 7-8yr olds. Because he threatened to hurt me if our children told me he was abusing them and it was years before their pain emerged. My story goes on and and on with years of “trying” to work it out, a story I rarely discussed because I carried the burden of guilt placed on my shoulders. I have emerged a stronger person but my children and others carry the burden and pain of his addiction and for awhile they too blamed me because I did not protect them. I am so grateful to see the church has finally been able to see with eyes that see and hearts that understand. For us it was painful but now there is help. Do not hide it if you find a loved one involved in any form of sexual addiction. Run, don’t walk and seek help and above all remember the Lord loves ALL his children so we have a responsibility to protect and help ourselves, our spouses and our little ones. Although it is a monumental struggle, one can gain control of their lives again, but don’t wait until many suffer as the consequences of bad sexual choices. Learn the signs, be alert and take the appropriate steps to stop it. It can be conquered if that is the true desire of your heart.

  15. Jane

    This is interesting, and has some sweet thoughts. And if it’s caught early, maybe some people really do have the sincere change of heart, soul and mind that she talks about. But I believe it’s very rare. If this is going to be up here for all these young, hopeful wives, someone ought to say the truth about the hell you’re headed for if something doesn’t change drastically and change NOW, not when you’re 40. If it’s an addiction, it will be far beyond pornography by the time you’re 40. It will be strip clubs, prostitutes, old junior high girlfriends who track him down on facebook, and any other woman he can sweet talk into it. Your life will be in chaos. Your children’s lives will be permanently altered and there will be nothing you can do about it. If I could go back and tell my 24-year-old self ONE thing it would be to take my babies and RUN. Not kidding. I know of so many women who have been through this, and NO men who have sincerely and fully recovered. ZERO. Do I believe it is possible through the atonement? Yes. Likely? No. It is sad and horrific, but that’s the truth.

    • admin

      Jane, we are so sorry for what you have been through. Thank you for sharing your story. You are not alone in feeling this way.

      We do know men who are recovering and in recovery and we will be sharing links to their stories. There IS hope. But it is hard, there is no doubt about it.

    • Themyscira

      Good point. If you are single and meet someone who has been into porn, be very careful before you decide to marry him. Dr. Phil says that the best indicator of future behavior is past behavior. So if you meet a guy who has only recently “kicked” his habit, you better wait to see if it sticks. If it has been many years and you take your time to learn the kind of man he is, then prayerfully proceed.

      But Jane is right. My dad was an addict. My mom didn’t know it when they got married. She tried to “love and support” him for 28 years before calling it quits. By then all of her 4 daughters had been molested, her own mother became “the other woman” as well as a so-called friend. HELL is right. Part of the problem I see in singles is that they meet, fall in love, and get married without the test of time. In other words, they’re married within 6 months instead of waiting a year, or better yet, two. I know it’s difficult to wait that long to express your love sexually, but better that than jumping the gun and having so much more to worry about sexually.

      Above all though, listen to the spirit!

  16. Steve

    It’s unfortunate that your having to deal with an 11 year old adult man who grew up believing that every healthy sexual urge was Satan trying to destroy his soul. It’s also a shame that the same organization has clothed both husband and wife in super unattractive underwear that interferes with intimacy at the deepest level by blocking the normal flow of oxytocin, a powerful naturally occurring hormone. When we hug or kiss a loved one, oxytocin levels drive up. It also acts as a neurotransmitter in the brain. In fact, the hormone plays a huge role in pair bonding. While it’s easy to blame porn for the emotional maturity and infancy you see, it more likely caused by sexual repression and the constant shame associated with LDS culture. We don’t intend to shame our men, we just do.

    • Whitney

      Hi Steve, thanks for your comment. I agree with many of your points here. Shame is a huge problem in our church culture, and one that will take a long time to fix. We also do not talk enough about healthy sexuality. Maybe that is best done in the home, but most of us didn’t/don’t get it at home either, so we have to do better for our children. I’m not sure about your comment about underwear interfering with intimacy…is there somewhere that says that we have to keep underwear on during sexual activity? I am not aware of any such statement.

      I would disagree that the emotional problems of addicts are caused by sexual repression. Addicts lean upon their addiction to help them feel good despite negative emotion, so they never develop more mature outlets and strategies to process their negative feelings. Shame may indeed play a role in making the addict feel that they cannot share these things, however.

    • admin

      Steve,

      I’m going to step in here as blog admin, because it’s important to me that people who come here understand the boundaries of this blog. It’s more than ok to talk about the fact that there is sometimes shame or fear around talking about sex. It’s great to talk about the reality of human biology and that things like oxytocin are real–physical realities, I believe, of spiritual truths. We are wired for connection! (and yet we are also commanded to bridle our passions…an interesting tension, don’t you think?)

      However, I’m not ok with disrespectful comments about the temple garment, and to me you are pushing that line here. Please understand that I understand that there are practical elements of sorting out your intimate life when you are endowed or married to an endowed member of the Church, but this site is not the place for that discussion. Thanks.

    • admin

      I also just want to say that even as safe environments to talk about sexual development, etc. are important, I don’t see it as a cure-all for prevention of sexual addiction — both because sexual addiction is not about sex at the core, and also because our larger culture has its own problem, which is a trend moving so far away from ‘not wanting to shame’ about sexuality that kids are being taught no boundaries at all except to avoid disease and unwanted pregnancy.

      One of the things I have learned after years of associating with addicts in recovery — addicts of all stripes — is that addiction is not about the substance or behavior in question. Healing is about something deeper than what is seen on the surface, and prevention, in my opinion, needs to get at root things like how we connect with ourselves, others, and God — and how we deal with life and pain and hard things.

  17. Notexpecting commenttoshowup

    So, did you ever feel like you might want to divorce your husband over this behavior? It kind of sounds like it. That is what is most sad to me about this post.

    I am not an expert, just a 40 something man, but I disagree with several of your conclusions. I think drawing erroneous conclusions on your part is contributing to the severity of the problem you see here. I also think that the changed behavior is simply a conclusion you have drawn because it is what you want to see. The change has likely come more from you and your belief about his change than his change itself.

    For example, one conclusion I disagree with is when you indicate that being exposed to pornography at 11 years old means that, on some level (which we cannot be clear on because you don’t elaborate except to say it brought him comfort, made him feel good and cope with low self-esteem), his growth in some area (presumably the emotional connection level) has been stunted and remains at an 11 year old level.

    While it may be true that everyone is at different levels in their ability to communicate with their marriage partner, to conclude that exposure to pornographic material made your husband incapable of communicating with you on some emotional level (or at a lower level than his peers) is just ridiculous. You even seem to allude to the ridiculousness of this conclusion when you said, “What does an eleven-year old boy know about what will ruin his life? His future marriage? Nothing. His brain was still developing.” I believe children, even developing 11 year olds, are much more resilient than you give them credit for here.

    Everyone is different in the amount that they communicate and everyone has different expectations about how their partner should communicate with them. Perhaps it is your expectations of communication on his part that are the problem. Perhaps he feels like if he does open up to you about what he is feeling that he will be judged as dirty or unfaithful. Sometimes it is just easier to keep things inside than risk being judged and thought less of by your partner. How are you doing at letting him know that you will not judge him for what he does tell you?

    I also think your connection made between pornography viewing and self-esteem is not accurate. Pornography viewing is not about low self-esteem, it is about arousing and satisfying a natural and healthy desire that cannot be met otherwise. Rather than have an affair, many men and women choose to view pornography as a safe alternative.

    While I do think that pornography viewing can be regarded as unhealthy for some, I do not believe that it can be labeled as an unhealthy addiction for everyone. The root of the problem is likely insecurity in the relationship, not pornography viewing per se. I think your worldview, and desire to label some behavior you have been told to interpret as an addiction, is driving your opinion here.

    I feel sorry for you that you cannot accept a man and his behavior without insisting that he change his ways because he is the one with the problem. Is it not possible that you may be the one with the problem in the way you see these things going on in the world and your judgment of him and his behavior? I am willing to bet that your view of these things is partly contributing to the problem as it exists in your mind.

    Please stop blaming the victim and expecting those you care about to change to fit your paradigm and start accepting others in their weakness and allow them to just be who they are without expecting them to change to fit what you want.

    • Whitney

      Thank you for your comment. I did not write this particular article, but I would like to reply to some of your statements.
      Many men who attend recovery programs for sexual addiction agree, and it is even found in the Sexaholics Anonymous reading material, that emotional maturity gets stunted when sexual addiction starts. You may not agree with this, but many men who are overcoming their addiction do.
      Addiction is about unhealthy coping mechanisms to help people deal with negative emotion. Low self esteem is a common negative emotion that leads people to act out. Sex is a natural and healthy desire, but it is not a need, and it does not have to be “met.” No one dies from not having sex. Those who have dealt with this addiction would disagree with you that pornography is a “safe alternative.” Pornography often leads to sexually promiscuous behavior, and even if it doesn’t, a martial relationship suffers as the addict starts to objectify their spouse and find fault with them because they don’t measure up to the lie that porn is. Studies have shown that those who watch pornography are less satisfied with their “real” sexual partner. Porn use can even lead to erectile dysfunction in young men. Are all these consequences “safe?”
      Our goal is not to say that everyone who views pornography has an addiction. We are here to provide information to those who feel that pornography and sexually compulsive behaviors are devastating to their lives.
      While all of us have character defects that we need to address, we do not have to “accept” behaviors that are unacceptable to us simply because we also have flaws.

      • Can you please provide references for these “studies” that you are talking about? Saying “many men” and “pornography often leads to” implies that you have some information on this. Not backing it up with a reliable reference kinda results in the argument falling flat on it’s face. Yes, “Sex is a natural and healthy desire but it is not a need” I don’t know what that statement had to do with anything. I would argue that sexual gratification is a physical need. If a man does not have sex or masturbate for an extended period of time, why does he have a “wet dream” (nocturnal emission)? That seems like the bodies way of fulfilling that physical need.

        • admin

          Jer,

          This series is being written by wives who have experienced the personal impact of a spouse’s pornography addiction. They are not professional experts, but are reflecting their personal experiences and what professionals and others who have walked this path have reiterated about how addiction affects an individual and loved ones. Note the links that are embedded as a starting point for some of your questions.

          Perhaps after the series is over, we can provide more links and information for the kinds of questions you have.

          Thanks,
          Michelle, Admin

        • Whitney

          Jer, your example actually supports the fact that sex is not a physical need (i.e. it does not cause damage to the body or death). Wet dreams are the body’s way of expelling sperm if someone does not have sex. The body already has a built in system for this as you say, further supporting the idea that sex is not actually necessary.

          Our goal on this website is not to prove to readers that what we say is true, but to provide information to those who feel that pornography and sexually compulsive behaviors are decreasing their quality of life. We are writing from experience from reading pornography research, working with experts who treat sexual addiction, and attending conferences to educate ourselves on sexual addiction. Citing everything we say is not a good use of our time. If you are interested in citations, I encourage you to download for free Fight the New Drug’s reference guide.

          However, since you asked, to read research that supports my statement that “Pornography often leads to sexually promiscuous behavior, and even if it doesn’t, a martial relationship suffers as the addict starts to objectify their spouse and find fault with them because they don’t measure up to the lie that porn is. Studies have shown that those who watch pornography are less satisfied with their “real” sexual partner” see
          –Victor B. Cline, Pornography’s Effect on Adults and Children (New York: Morality in Media, 2001.) “The first change that happened was an addiction effect. The porn consumers got hooked. Once involved in pornographic materials, they kept coming back for more and still more. … The second phase was an escalation effect. With the passage of time, the addicted person required rougher, more explicit, more deviant, and ‘kinky’ kinds of sexual material to get their ‘highs’ and ‘sexual turn-ons.’ It was reminiscent of individuals afflicted with drug addictions. … The third phase was desensitization. Material … which was originally perceived as shocking, taboo- breaking, illegal, repulsive, or immoral, in time came to be seen as acceptable and commonplace. … The fourth phase was an increasing tendency to act out sexually the behaviors viewed in the pornography, including … frequenting massage parlors.”
          –James B. Weaver, Jonathan L. Masland, and Dolf Zillmann, “Effects of Erotica on Young Men’s Aesthetic Perception of Their Female Sexual Partners,” Perceptual and Motor Skills 58 (1984): 929-930. “Exposure to porn causes men to rate their female partner as less attractive than they would if they had not been exposed to porn.”
          –Ana J. Bridges, “Pornography’s Effects on Interpersonal Relationships,” in The Social Costs of Pornography, edited by James R. Stoner Jr. and Donna M. Hughes, 89–110. Princeton, New Jersey: Witherspoon Institute, 2010. ““Even short, experimental situations involving a one-time exposure to popular pornographic depictions create negative consequences for males’ evaluations of their romantic partner’s attractiveness and how in love with them they feel. Compared with men who watched a neutral film, men who watched a pornographic film subsequently rated themselves as less in love with their romantic partner.”
          –Dolf Zillmann and Jennings Bryant, “Pornography’s Impact on Sexual Satisfaction,” Journal of Applied Social Psychology 18, no. 5 (1988): 438-53. “In one study, participants viewed either non-violent pornographic videos or sexually innocuous comic acts from television over a six-week period. Researchers found that both men and women who had been repeatedly exposed to pornography signicantly decreased their sexual satisfaction in their partner’s displays of affection, appearance, sexual curiosity, and actual sexual performance. However, non-sexual items of satisfaction such as general life happiness, satisfaction in non-romantic relationships, etc., had not changed, demonstrating that the reduced satisfaction was specific to the subject’s partner, not a result of a general decline in satisfaction.”
          –Jochen Peter and Patti M. Valkenburg, “Adolescents’ Exposure to Sexually Explicit Internet Material and Notions of Women as Sex Objects: Assessing Causality and Underlying Processes,” Journal of Communication 59 (2009): 407–433. “Adolescents’ exposure to [sexually explicit Internet material] was both a cause and a consequence of their beliefs that women are sex objects. More frequent exposure to [sexually explicit Internet material] caused stronger beliefs that women are sex objects. At the same time, stronger beliefs that women are sex objects led to more frequent exposure to [sexually explicit Internet material], albeit only for male adolescents.”

          • @Whitney & @Jer
            I wanted to make a comment about the word “need”. When we use that word, what context are we speaking in? Are we saying if a need is not met that person will die?

            To clarify, there is a book I read over a year ago with my wife. I read it first and then handed it to my wife who then read it for her first time with me (for my second time) The book is titled “His Needs, Her Needs: Building an Affair-Proof Marriage”. The book, written by a Marriage Therapist (who is also Christian), outlines what are the 10 basic emotional “needs” we all have. When our most important emotional needs are fulfilled by our partner in a selfless way, we feel in love or strongly attracted to them (which often happens right before we marry someone). When our spouse doesn’t meet our needs, we don’t feel that attraction as strongly anymore (commonly referred to “falling out of love” given enough time). Both people in a marriage have a responsibility to find out what their spouse’s most important needs are and meet them (because we love them). When those needs are met on both sides, a truly rich intimate marriage relationship occurs.

            What the author figured out over his career is that out of the 10 basic emotional needs most women have a top 5 list (out of the ten) and most men have a top 5 list which usually don’t seem to be on the same page.

            For Women:
            1. Affection
            2. Conversation
            3. Honesty and Openness
            4. Financial Support
            5. Family Commitment

            For Men:
            1. Sexual Fulfillment
            2. Recreational Companionship
            3. An Attractive Spouse
            4. Domestic Support
            5. Admiration

            Let me repeat before we proceed, that these needs outlined and their order are what is most common for women and men and not everyone is the same. Now, many of you may read this list and initially think that your spouse’s needs are ridiculous or aren’t really/shouldn’t be a need. Well, to say that is to reject the very divine nature and inspired differences between men and women. And yes, there are caveats/guidelines to each of these items and how to meet them. Before I read this book, I read “And They were Not Ashamed”, because I wasn’t raised with a healthy view of sexuality and intimacy in general. While I learned a lot while reading that book, I was at times frustrated in thinking how “stupid” it is that women need affection, conversation, etc. It wasn’t until I read “His Needs, Her Needs” that I realized what an ignoramus I was being in regards to not meeting my wife’s “needs”. I only thought it was stupid that most women (more importantly my wife) “needed” these things, because they weren’t MY needs. Once I read the chapters on her needs, I realized I needed to change my ways or it was going to end up being just like how my parent’s marriage ended up (divorce). I made immediate and gradual changes and my wife noticed. I saw in return, changes in her as well as I changed myself. I had a complete paradigm shift in my understand of my role in my marriage.

            I realize that this may be an unpopular thing to say, but saying that a man doesn’t “need” to be fulfilled sexually is false. However, even if he isn’t having that need met through his spouse, it is no excuse to meet it through outside means (i.e. pornography, masturbation, other people, etc.). That is just plain wrong!

            We all want to have a healthy fulfilling and intimate relationship. It’s what we all crave. But we can’t have one until we ourselves meet our spouse’s needs and our spouse meets ours. Meeting our spouse’s needs is a gift we can freely give. None of us will get there instantly, but we can all make changes, even though our spouse isn’t ideal. Men really struggle with sexual addictions, because it is tied to their #1 and #3 emotional need. Please understand that.

            Men are struggling everywhere to overcome and channel their “needs” in a healthy way and in the right context. They need intimacy and are desperately looking for it. They were given strong passions and drives for a divine purpose, but they confuse sex and pornography with it. Satan knows this and has crippled most men across the globe with this malady. Men need all the help they can get. Obviously, there are circumstances where it is not healthy or safe for someone and/or their children to be around the spouse who is in the depths of addiction. Rely on the Spirit to know when that is, but don’t give in to natural feelings of anger and betrayal because they have slipped up, but are still trying. Let your spouse know what your needs are and how to meet them and do the same for him/her. Even if you are meeting your spouse’s needs (which will help them tremendously) most men are going to absolutely need outside help (as wonderfully provided on this website) to help them work through their addiction(s) and their weaknesses. At the end of the day, we have a son or daughter of Christ who is struggling with a problem and couldn’t feel more hopeless/helpless about it. They are disappointed and even disgusted at themselves and the pain they are causing to those around them. They don’t have the willpower to reach out and get help. You know them better than anyone else. They need intimacy and they need to know you still love them and believe in them. Most importantly, they need the Savior’s help also. Love them as Christ would. I’m eternally grateful my wife has done so for me.

          • Whitney

            Dan, thank you for your comments. They were very thoughtful and for the most part I agree with everything you have said. However, I think it’s important to remember that this site is not a “strengthening your marriage” site. Hope and Healing is a place for those who feel that pornography and sexual addiction are ruining their life and relationships. In a marriage with addiction, rules about a normal healthy interaction in a marriage go out the window. There’s a lot of blaming, manipulating, and emotional abuse in most marriages with addiction. I have not read “And They Were Not Ashamed,” but overall I do not recommend that couples who are struggling with sexual addiction read or implement principles from books like that. That book is coming from the assumption that there are no sexual addictions in the relationship.

            When most people talk about sex as a need, they are either saying that 1) they will die without sex (many sex addicts believe this) or 2) they cannot be a happy, healthy, fulfilled, productive individual without sex; that somehow, if they don’t have sex, they are being denied a basic “right.” Both of these definitions are untrue. I am interpreting your comments to mean that you see sex as a need for a happy, fulfilled marriage relationship. For the most part, I would agree with you. Although I am sure there are couples who, for whatever reasons, are not able to participate in sexual intimacy who still have happy and rewarding marriages. There are many ways to build intimacy besides sex.

            The top 10 list you mentioned is interesting. I don’t have any overt objections to the ideas of a top 5 for men and women and the top 5 list you presented for each sounds reasonable. What about men who don’t marry and who believe in the law of chastity as defined in the LDS faith? What does it mean for them if 3 of their top 5 “needs” aren’t met (sexual fulfillment, an attractive spouse, and domestic support)?

            Sexual addiction stems from deep unmet needs and false beliefs, just like all other addictions. Shame or a feeling of being unworthy is usually the fuel for the fire of addiction. If you read enough about sexual addiction, you will start to find people who are saying that this addiction really isn’t about sex. It’s about the inability to cope with negative emotion, namely shame. Sex is just a tool used to provide the neurotransmitters to the brain that help it feel numb and happy. My husband made a major breakthrough in his recovery when he realized that his deepest issues, the ones that gave rise to his addiction, have nothing to do with sex. It gave him a green light to start working on those issues rather than focusing solely on his addictive behavior.

            Addicts do desperately need intimacy with others, but they need to learn how to build it in healthy ways (emotionally and spiritually) before they can start to see physical intimacy as just another way to bring closeness with their partner. It is important that we allow betrayed women (and men) to feel their feelings of anger and betrayal. Without feeling them, they cannot work through them. Stuffing them away or “not giving in” only results in being poisoned from the inside out.

            For any couples who are in early recovery and are looking for resources on how to navigate their sexual relationship, I would recommend Dr Moore’s article published by the Togetherness Project: http://www.togethernessproject.org/blog/community-lesson-navigating-sexual-intimacy-in-early-recovery

        • Been.There.

          That’s a bit like saying… I took Oxycodone for months and now I wake up in the middle of the night in full body aches and sweats,… doesn’t that mean it is a need? Or I ate chocolate cake for a week, and now I dream about it every night and feel like I just can’t handle everyday life unless I eat some more. Yes, your body needs it at the moment, because it knows what it’s like to have it. Is it good for your body to have excess of any of these things? No.

  18. Great story. Just to note, this is not only a man’s problem, in this world, and we all need support for whatever addictions we have.

    • Lorena

      Ty, I wrote this article and never once said it is a man’s problem. I am fully aware women have this problem as well. Everyone indeed need’s support.

  19. Janis

    Thank you for sharing that!! It is so needed for people to open up and share their struggles so others can be helped.

  20. Great post! It’s incredible the wisdom gained by experience. Those truths are so important and save a lot of heartache! I would add a few things to the fantastic list, and I’ve lived this life, so I’m adding these things out of experience not idealism:
    1. You can be happy even if your spouse has an addiction. It really has nothing to do with your own spiritual progression unless you let it. The scripture stand and holy places and be not moved is not just an admonition, but a promise that because of our agency evil does not impact our chances for exaltation. It can sometimes make us uncomfortable, to say the least, or embarrass us, but unless we let those things sway us it has no eternal effect on us other than the opportunity to learn.
    2. The best way to help is to strengthen yourself specifically and educate yourself about the addiction. You can’t control their agency, you can’t make them stop. It’s too heavy a burden, so don’t try. Only Christ is strong enough, and he’s already taken care of it, so you don’t have to do it again. The more spiritual strength you have the more prepared you are to help your loved one if/when they ask for your help. Remember whenever a temptation to “wait” for your loved one comes that the savior would never do anything to halt or delay your progression and it is a temptation from satan. Always progress. Always.

    • One more thing:
      Don’t worry so much about rebuilding trust with your husband, it’s something we stress a lot about but is slightly misguided. Worry more about building trust with God and the rest will follow in time and as appropriate. Act in confidence that you are doing His will.

      • Been.There.

        I appreciate this comment. I mostly agree with it. :o) When I went to see my bishop, after my husband had already told me and the bishop about his addiction, he gave me some very simple advice. You can’t worry about him, you can’t change anything he will do, just worry about yourself and take care of yourself. I came away from that appointment feeling hurt and enraged and thinking “how in the world did this get turned in my direction? I haven’t done anything wrong!” I expected more sympathy. I prayed SOOOOO hard about what the bishop had told me and asked Heavenly Father what I needed to learn from this. I received a peaceful confirmation that I should take care of myself. I redoubled my efforts to keep our home a spiritual haven from the influences of the world, I started exercising again and eating better and focused on caring for my kids. So what did that change? Well, it helped me be able to handle everything that came my way without crawling into a fetal position. It helped me build a spiritual foundation for my kids so they know what is right and true. So I agree with that part of your statement. In the same breath, I disagree with the part where you said not to worry about rebuilding trust with your husband. Trust is essential where intimacy is involved. For men, it is easy to turn on a physical urge without any emotional connection. For women, it is ALL connected. It is difficult to open yourself to that kind of intimacy without trusting your spouse. You are right that it takes a long time for it to come, but it is essential for an eternal marriage.

    • Daisy

      Wonderful advice. Thank you.

  21. Janne Gee

    Very good article. A little more information on how it begins. Many of the start ups is the kind of music we listen to these days. Very, very graphic and detailed. The common
    TV shows that are on Prime Time, seem to push the envelope as hard as they can, giving a person a false sense that it’s OK to watch. Next the literature, movies. Internet. Much like a snowball, it accelerates at a rapid speed to the point that we can’t tell the difference of when it starts and when it ends.

  22. Larraine Nelson

    Wonderful articles that I have just come across today. My husband and I are currently on service missions in the LDS ARP program. I think this would be wonderful reading material for those of our sister missionaries leading the Spousal Support groups in our region. Thank you so much for sharing your story. So many relate to it! Such a tender topic.

  23. Thank you so much for sharing your story. It sounds all too familiar! But the hardest part is them wanting to change and seek help. Then stick with the things they are taught to do! If they don’t, there really is no hope for that “miracle” of hope. None! The habits, behavior, and all that goes with it, will never go away and the tender heart of the spouse, is broken. And eventually, the marriage, forever! What a sad sad thing to have happen to a person that gave their heart, love, and trust! To have it all stripped away.

  24. Crystal

    Thank you for sharing this. I really needed to hear this. I have been struggling with the knowledge that my husband has had a pornography addiction. I knew when we got married that he had an addiction when he was a teenager. But he assured me that he had changed and there would never be a problem again. I trusted him. We did put up safeguards to ensure it did happen again. But then he had to start doing online school and there wasn’t anything I could do since he needed to be in a quiet room doing his school work and I needed to watch our 2 kids. I only found out a few months ago that this had been happening. I haven’t really known what to do. I know he needs counseling but he doesn’t want to. He did finally let me change the passwords to the computers so that he can’t get on when i’m not around but that took a lot of purswaiding in itself.
    I didn’t know all these things about pornography addictions like that it is just a branch of the addiction or that their emotional growth is stunted at the age they start. I have feared that he lusts other women and other things might be issues but I havn’t wanted to bring it up and accuse him for something he isn’t doing. But it has been so hard because I feel so ugly and gross in his eyes because he never complements me in any way and I feel like he looks at other women and wishes I was more like them. It really hurts.
    I have been hurting so much and anytime I bring anything up even just my feelings he ends up trying to make me feel guilty for it. I havn’t known what to do. This article has definitely helped to learn more about what is really going on. I really hope that soon I can get him to go to counseling.

    • Daisy

      One of the best things that you can do for your husband is to find recovery for yourself. You’ve suffered long enough and now it’s time to find peace and happiness.
      Come join us on our private forum where we can share with you the things that we have learned in our own recoveries.

  25. Sarah

    I appreciate this positive story. Not all end so well. But the 12 steps are a huge resource for the wife in healing and growing in a way she didn’t know how before. Wives, who know their husbands are in the struggle of pornography, can often feel isolated themselves. They can’t share this experience with anyone else except the bishop usually. They need a support group. I’m glad Lds family services has both the 12 step program, and the family support program.

  26. Robbin Wohl

    I think my first husband had a pornography addiction. At minimum he had a predilection. I asked him about his reading materials (pre computer era) and his response was that this was normal. My father and brothers didn’t do this. Such things were not in our home. I didn’t want them in my home. This made me a prude and a square. We attended church and we were a temple couple. Within seven years he divorced me to live with and eventually marry a friend he had an affair with. She was far more liberal and shared more of his interests, including oral sex. I ended up with a type of cancer that is only caused by this unhealthy practice. This is new scientific information and is now included in brochures on STD’s. The virus can sit in wait for decades, until one’s immune system is compromised and the virus can express itself. Follow your feelings and the promptings of the spirit. Goodness and not liberality is what should please a Godly companion. Be healthy. Be safe.

    • Whitney

      Robbin I am so sorry for all that you have been through. Thank you for sharing your experience.

    • anonymous123

      Oral sex does not cause cancer. HPV is a virus that can be spread through oral sex (as well as any other kind of sex) with multiple sexual partners, similar to any sexually transmitted disease.. If your husband contracted and STD through sexual contact with multiple partners, then my heart indeed goes out to you, and you issues range far beyond pornography use.

      [comment has been edited to avoid a debate about oral sex and teachings in the Church. This is not the place for that debate. Thanks.]

  27. Love her account as she focus on the solution and not being a victim, she no doubt was major force in saving a man.

    • Lorena

      Thanks GB. I did love and support him and it took loads of time and counseling and study to not feel like a victim anymore. I did hardly anything to save him, he did (does) all the work. thanks for your kind words.

  28. Nicole Walton

    I would like to know more about how and why ” a young man’s emotional growth is stunted at the age he begins viewing pornography.” Can you recommend books or other resources? Or just expound on the how and why?

    Thank you.

    • admin

      I provided a couple of links in response to a similar question asked by Jer.

  29. Renée Berry

    Thank you! I admire your courage and forthrightness. How long have you been aware of your husbands inability to be emotionally initimate, and how long has your husband been consciously working to overcome his addiction? My husband is in his second round of 12 Step meetings, I have been working as a facilitator of a women’s group using the 12 step (ARP) for almost 2 years, and we have been in marriage counseling for almost 2 years. I find as time moves forward my understanding and awareness has become so acute, as to be painful. This is my second marriage, we are sealed, and I am losing hope. I think the hopelessness stems from my understanding broadening to the degree that I am now aware of so many peripherals, I am struggling to believe real change is possible; it is overwhelming to say the least.

    • Daisy

      Come join our forum here at Hope and Healing and we can help you with your journey towards Recovery and Hope. We’ve been there so we know the road well.

    • Lorena

      Renee, my husband has been in recovery for 2 years. I don’t know if i really “knew” he couldn’t emotionally connect until the poo hit the fan two years ago. Counseling and reading books like “He Restoreth My Soul” finally showed me what was missing in my marriage.

  30. WOW! I wish this message would get out more and more. Thank you for sharing!!!

    • Daisy

      Thank you so much!

      • Lorena

        Thanks Susan, that is why we are writing this series of article, we want to help turn the tide of this addictive plague.

  31. HECTOR CRUZ

    This experience is how important is to reveal the past life, something that is hard to face.

  32. Gary Sorensen

    My life has been a menagerie of addictions I battle to this day I can’t say I understand all of them but most I get but like your husband don.t share My Wife is everything and I pray for help but I’m so Stupid I don’t listen to myself. I just don’t Understand Why I can Know something so deeply and with such assurance and ignore it to my destruction? Oh Yea I need help on so many Level’s I Love My Savior and I follow him in so many ways how can I be so Untrue?

    • admin

      Gary,
      Our heart goes out to you. If you are struggling with addictions, we encourage you to seek help and support in 12-step groups or other places where you can associate with those who have overcome addictions…and perhaps with a counselor who specializes in addiction. You are not a bad person. God loves you. Christ loves you. There is hope!

  33. Justin

    Pornography addiction only exists in sexually repressed cultures. The minute you realize that and stop listening to unqualified people and sites like fightthenewdrug, the sooner you’ll realize that your husband loves you, even though he may look at porn. You’ll get over your hurt feelings and help him get over his guilt. If he is out picking up prostitutes and endangering himself and you, that’s a different matter completely.

    • admin

      Justin, thanks for stopping by. Clearly here at Hope and Healing we disagree that pornography cannot be a harmful addiction without behaviors escalating to prostitutes and affairs. Those who believe pornography is not harmful in and of itself likely will not find the information on our site useful because a basic premise we unapologetically hold to is that pornography is harmful — to individuals who use it, to their loved ones, and to society as a whole.

      We do agree with you that wives can help the process of healing by finding help and support so that they can separate out their husbands’ porn use from the men they want to be, which almost always includes wanting to be a loving husband. (That said, unfortunately, sometimes even that love and concern is hijacked by addiction, but we tend to see a lot of men geniunely want their spouses to know of their loves.) It’s also important for wives to find healing so that they don’t inadvertently add to the shame that men feel about their struggles.

      And this is why Hope and Healing exists. We believe that as women find healing, it helps men in their recovery and helps women be able to respond and engage in the marriage in healthy ways (including having healthy boundaries around no porn in the home or marriage — again, we are unapologetic about encouraging that standard for a family, all the more so because of the harms of exposure to porn on children).

  34. Suzanne

    What is the specialized therapy you mention? If it’s helpful in changing the brain, can it be applied to an anger problem?

    • Lorena

      Suzanne, specialized therapy in these cases is by CSAT, a Certified Sex Addiction Therapist. Anger is never the primary emotion, it is a secondary emotion, so a good therapist should be able to help the client unravel the issues behind anger. If you google “anger is a secondary emotion” you’ll get loads of info. Good luck.

  35. Annie Phelps

    As the spouse of a person addicted to porn and someone who was unable to connect with you emotionally in an intimate way, did you find yourself starting to shut down emotionally as well?

    • Lorena

      Annie, i never did shut down because as I said, he was a great listener. Maybe that isn’t always the case. I did get super frustrated that he put up a wall to his emotions though.

  36. I do not know if these are your statements or where your references are for these could you forward them to me.

    “If he wants to stop, but always returns, a day later or a year later, it’s an addiction.”

    “a young man’s emotional growth is stunted at the age he begins viewing pornography.”

    “Pornography is a branch on the addiction tree; it is not the addiction. The real addiction is lust. Addicts feed their lust addiction with pornography.”

    Thanks

    • admin

      This idea of emotional growth being stunted is a concept talked about in general addiction treatment and plays out in the personal experiences of those who have suffered from addiction (and those who love them). What I think is reflected here is information that has been gained from this woman’s personal experience with clinical support from addiction specialists.

      If you Google addiction and stunted emotional growth, you might find more information as to how and why emotional growth is hindered when addiction is used as a coping mechanism. (By definition, addiction is an emotionally maladaptive approach to dealing with life, so it also just makes sense to suggest that if a child has had addiction problems since childhood, their emotional growth was hindered at some level from the point of onset of addictive coping behaviors. Here’s a simple article from the drug addiction world that explains the concept: http://www.orchidrecoverycenter.com/blog/your-emotional-age-gets-stuck-with-drug-addiction/)

      When it comes to addictions that begin in childhood, there is often also a chicken/egg kind of situation. Kids who suffer with addictions are often trying to cope with the effects of abuse or other childhood traumas or difficulties, so some of the emotional impact could be from family of origin struggles where addiction was used as a way to self-medicate through painful experiences and/or lack of healthy attachment. (You can Google addiction and attachment theory for more information on that, or see a link and quote below from the Journal of Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity.)

      e.g., “Ullman’s (2007) study of sexual addicts substantiates the view that child- hood trauma physiologically alters the prefrontal cortex to such a degree that, decades later, intelligent people make spectacularly ill-advised choices. Her research sample of sexual addicts displayed damage to the prefrontal cortex in the wake of childhood sexual abuse. Since the prefrontal cortex is the only area of the brain that can integrate information from the outside—including other people—with internal feelings (Goldberg, 2002), compromise to it entails difficulties with abstract thinking; focus, planning and decision-making; regulation of mood; behavior and impulse control. In- deed, impaired judgment in itself implies damage to the prefrontal cortex and is one of the hallmarks of a sexually addicted person as well as of persons with attentional, emotional, substance abuse, personality and dissociative disorders.” http://centerforhealthysex.com/blog/affective-neuroscience-and-the-treatment-of-sexual-addiction

      The American Society for Addiction Medicine recognizes behavior addictions such as gambling or sexual addictions as legitimate addictions, so those who treat people with sexual

  37. Helen

    What I wish I would have understood 9 yrs ago, when I found pornography on my (now X-husbands) computer, is that CHILD pornography is illegal! I should have immediately reported it to the police, not just my Bishop who did nothing about it for 5 months. My X was also allowed to continue to teach his Primary class of 10 year old children during this period of time (there were 3 little girls in his class). One of his favorite sites that I regularly found was: “13-year-old-virgins-having-first-time-sex”. This was especially disturbing to me as we had daughters at home including a 12 and 14 yr old. I monitored his computer for 7 months, he frequently cruised kiddie-porn sites. He also still partook of the Sacrament every Sunday and attended the temple. My Bishop hadn’t realized the seriousness of it either, I don’t think there was adequate training for Bishops on this issue back then. It was a learning experience for both of us, he did apologize for the way my situation was handled. For what I know now, both my Bishop and I would have done things differently.

    • admin

      One of the things that is so hard about all of this is that not only is the process of learning and growth personal, it’s also collective. It’s hard when “the Church” (or its representatives) doesn’t handle things quite right. There is a mantra in recovery circles: When you know better, you do better. This is true both at the individual and collective levels. Collectively (both in the Church and in the clinical world), people are still learning about how to respond to this. You should know that not everyone in the clinical world will agree with how we approach things here at Hope and Healing, but what we share comes out of seeing a lot of experiences on the ground and seeing women find healing through reaching out, through their own 12-step or other support, and through learning about how addiction impacts the brain and relationships.

      The example you give, too, from your own experience, shows that sometimes hard boundaries need to be drawn when serious boundaries (like the law!) are violated, and/or when harmful behavior continues repeatedly with promises of change that never comes. Learning where to draw boundaries is also about learning by experience.

      The plan of agency and learning by experience is messy as all get-out! Good thing the Atonement is as big as it is, and that we have space on earth, this probationary time, during which we can learn, and try again, and learn some more and try again….

      Sending love your way. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  38. Denise

    I can relate to this article. There is a 20 + age difference between my husband and I. When we were first married, life was good. We had a lot to share and talk about. Within about 5 years of our marriage, and the internet became more available, I found out that he was addicted to porn. It “wasn’t a issue for him”, “he was just playing”. His “friends” email nude pictures of women, etc. I tried to talk to him about his addiction. He claims that it’s just all in fun and that he really loves me. I ended up getting my own PC and email address, (I was tired of seeing the emails from male “friends”. Once and awhile he will try to “share” his pictures. I am so hurt by this. I have told him that This is his thing, not mine. (Don’t misunderstand, we were very active prior to the constant porn addiction.) So now, my husband is almost 80 and we have been married 25 years. Our “love life” has been over for almost 5 yrs. He still is into porn and I find, because of the porn, I love him, but not in love with him. I would love to be intimate, but I am, (after way to many years of porn), too ashamed of my body. There is no way that I could ever look like the porn women. I resent the years that have passed with all of the porn he has watched. I resent that it has effected our marriage. I really enjoyed being intimate, yet feel so alone. This is our second marriage, (for both). I am not wanting to end another one. So I am resigned to live with him, take care of him, etc., until the end. I will have to be honest and say that I still have dreams for finding a man that could be my everything and, most important, I would be his everything.

    • Whitney

      Denise, I am so sorry that you have had to deal with this and that your husband has been betraying you for 20 years and doesn’t see a problem with it. Have you sought out any help to heal from this trauma? Please look into 12 step groups or a qualified therapist to help you.

  39. Anonymous12

    I am 22. Recently returned missionary. I had an addiction before my mission, but was able to give up at least pornography for the duration of my mission fairly easily. I don’t feel like I’m addicted to pornography, but something similar to what you said. I don’t feel I’m addicted to lust exactly, but I feel like my body craves sexual activity similar to how my body tells me that I’m hungry when I haven’t eaten. And just like going for a long time without food, the craving only strengthens with time. I’m really trying to employ many of the things that I taught while on a mission to get over this. But it’s not as simple as “giving up a thrill” as earlier mentioned in the comments. It’s a process, and part of me wonders if it’s a disorder to a point worthy of taking medication for excessive libido. It’s something I will think over and discuss with others I trust, and with my bishop.

    Thank you for this article. I always thought, “When I go on my mission, I’ll clean up.” or “When I’m married, it’ll be easier to control myself.” But I now know that isn’t 100% true. You are who you are, and circumstances won’t change you, only you can change you. I want to quit this before I’m married. It’s an extremely daunting task that I think about all the time. I want to be good enough for my wife. I want to be good enough for my children. I want to be worthy to give priesthood blessings on a moment’s notice. I want to be worthy of a temple marriage. Yet, I constantly doubt myself. I’m harder on myself than anyone else possibly could be. I’m sitting here at 1:30am, thinking about how I could possibly react better the next time temptation shows up. I know I should be better. I also know I need to rely on my Savior more.

    I don’t want to burden people with my rant, this was more to express these feelings, and my point of view. I’m really glad to have outlets and people to turn to. It helps to know that it is possible to change, and that there are people supporting you. I want to change more than anything. The world tells you that it’s impossible to change anything about yourself, and that you should give up and give in to what you want. As I heard in Sacrament meeting on Sunday, though, you can either believe someone who spends little effort and time to judge you as hopeless, or you can believe the person who gave His entire life to show you that you are priceless, and can change.

    • Whitney

      Anonymous12,
      Thank you for posting your thoughts. I applaud you because there are probably hundreds of other young men and women who have the same questions as you do. Reaching out for understanding with a sincere desire to overcome a pornography problem is one of the first steps to recovery.

      Some of your comments make me think that the sexual behaviors that you have done in the past have strengthened the reward pathways in your brain to the point that those pathyways are now influencing your desires and behaviors. You say that you were “at least able to give up pornography” on your mission, but what about other behaviors? What about masturbating, or thinking inappropriately about women on the street, or fantasizing about sexual acts? As was reviewed in this post, this is not really a “pornography addiction.” This behavior is about lust and acting out on lust may take many forms. You also stated that you “crave” sexual activity. Craving is not a normal sexual response. Sex is not like food. Sex is not a need. Our society has to ingrained us to think that men, moreso than women, have a need for sex and it’s not “healthy” to “repress” that need. This idea is so pervasive that even us Church members have bought into it. Sadly, this is a lie. http://rowboatandmarbles.org/most-important-secret-about-sex-for-mormons.html
      You do not have “excessive libido.” Your behavior has strengthened the dopamine reward pathways in your brain so that now your brain wants more and more sexual stimulation. Medication isn’t the answer to your problem.

      I am sorry to say, but in my and my husband’s experience, simply trying to employ what you taught on your mission is not going to help you overcome this problem. If this task is daunting to you, if you doubt your ability to do it, if you have tried to stop this behavior in the past but couldn’t stay stopped, if you were clean on your mission but started looking at porn again when you returned, you are going to need stronger medicine to treat this problem. Yes, you are going to need to learn to rely on the Savior, but you need specific tools to learn HOW to do that. These tools will be found in a 12 step group (like LDS ARP/PASG groups or Sexaholics Anonymous) and in working with a therapist who is experienced and trained in sexual addiction. If the idea of addiction doesn’t help you, you don’t have to use that word, but you do need to still take the necessary steps to recover. To me, addiction simply means that there has been a physical change in your brain as a result of these behaviors and it is going to take specific treatment to heal your brain. If you would like to read more about the science of this problem I would strongly recommend the book He Restoreth My Soul by Donald Hilton.

      Maybe your journey can start by taking the steps that Elder Oaks outlined in his recent article: https://www.lds.org/ensign/2015/10/recovering-from-the-trap-of-pornography?lang=eng
      I have to say that I personally do not think breaking pornography use down into “levels of involvement” is that useful (my own husband was able to go months, up to year, without acting out with porn, but he always came back to it until he realized he had an addiction and started treating it as such), but what Elder Oaks says at the end of the article is pertinent. You do need humility, discipleship, a personal plan, accountability and support, and endurance in faith. Many try to do this in isolation, or perhaps working only with their bishop. You can try it that way, but if (when) you find that it’s not enough and you return to porn and/or masturbation days, weeks, months, or years down the road, I would encourage you to develop a personal plan with a therapist and get your support through a 12 step group and use a sponsor–someone who has walked the same road you are walking–for accountability.

      Please do deal with this problem now. Do not minimize it. Please be honest with the women you date about your past and where you are at with your problem. If a woman can see that you are putting in the work to recover from this, it will help her trust you.

      God bless you in your journey. This is a very hard thing to have to deal with. I believe my husband would have given up a long time ago were it not for the 12 steps. I hope you can find the resources you need to start your recovery and find lasting sobriety.

    • admin

      So glad you joined the conversation, Anonymous12. I’m not a sexual addict, but I’ve been actively involved in 12-step meetings (attending general addiction meetings) for nearly 4 1/2 years now. I would encourage you to consider even attending a general addiction meeting, or AA, or SA, or any group that has people in solid recovery, just to get a feel for what it’s like to have hope in the face of something you can’t just all on your own. I’m coming to believe that this is really why we are here on earth — to come to grips with our mortalness (our fallenness!) so that we can experience the power of God in ways that cannot happen when we try to save ourselves.

      One of the blessings of engaging with a community of people learning to rely on God this way is that yes, you learn how to rely on the Savior, AND you have the help and support of people so that you don’t have to try to figure out what that means all alone. All the spiritual practices we do in our LDS life really, really matter. And yet they still can leave us in isolation trying to work on things alone. When you engage with a recovery community, you have a group of people there to help you through those moments of challenge and temptation in ways that they know work to overcome the seemingly impossible. And you can be surrounded by hope as you see how God has helped others…and start nurturing that seed of belief that you already have that with God, change can happen, one step, one choice, one belief at a time.

      Anyway, I understand why Elder Oaks said what he said. The word addiction can be scary, and can seem hopeless. Still, I am like Whitney and think there is simply value in people realizing that this is hard to lick alone, and even if it hasn’t escalated to full-on addiction (whatever people might define that to mean), there is great power in realizing how difficult this is. If you can’t find peace and rest without sexual release, this is not a state that sounds peaceful. God wants us to experience His rest in the face of our mortal stuff, not simply grit our teeth through it.

      I like to think of working 12-steps as simply recognizing the fall, like King Benjamin said, and recognizing the need for Christ. The 12-step programs just provide a simple, gentle (key word in my mind, especially for those of us who are hard on ourselves!!) framework for being able to learn to surrender to God and become really honest with self about the natural-man barriers that we have as mortals that keep us from really letting Him help us (including trying to shame ourselves into change).

      If 12-step doesn’t seem like your thing, you could consider other recovery communities, like LifeStar or other groups that encourage reaching out for help from those who are walking the path. You don’t have to walk this alone! And you don’t have to be a full-on addict to reach out for help. Again, glad you reached out here, and I hope you will find others you can reach out to who know what peace, healing, and surrender look and feel like — and who know how to get there from here.

    • Most men in their 20s have a strong libido. When a man doesn’t have sex or masturbate for several weeks, there is a natural buildup of sexual tension. This built in biological urge to have sex is necessary to ensure the survival of the human species. When you get married, your strong libido will be a strength in your marriage.

      If you are only masturbating every few weeks when you feel a strong sexual urge, that is completely normal and not an addiction. Trying to completely stop masturbating can lead to a cycle of abstinence followed by extreme shame and binging and that shame may lead to unhealthy sexual behavior. Not looking at porn is a much more achievable goal. A bishop is not qualified to give medical or mental health advice. You should seek advice from a licensed therapist or psychologist to determine if you have an addiction before starting any addiction treatment program.

      Most men don’t stop masturbating before getting married. While some people in this thread have told horror stories about being married to someone with secret sexual compulsions, most men have a significantly reduced desire to masturbate if they are in a healthy marriage where both partners are sexually satisfied. Most women won’t be upset if their husband occasionally masturbates when the couple can’t have sex for some reason (extended travel or illness). The most important part of a healthy marriage is mutual respect, complete fidelity, and honesty about sex. As long as you have that strong foundation, everything else can be worked through.

      For ten years, I tried everything I could think of to stop masturbating. In the end, I failed, but I have a happy marriage and a good life. If I could go back and give my 20 year old self some advice, I would tell myself to focus on building the character traits that would be attractive to a spouse and worry less about controlling my sexual desires. As long as your sexual urges are not compulsive or used to deal with another mental health problem, strong sexual desires can be channeled into amazing sex in a marriage. As long as you are honest, kind, and generous, a wonderful woman will recognize those traits and overlook your shortcomings to build a life together with you.

      • admin

        Andy, I want to tread carefully here because I can hear in your words how difficult your struggle has been. Our intent is not to increase shame, yet to take a stand for principles we believe to be true. We realize porn and masturbation are common. That’s why we feel to speak out about the topic.

        I am glad to hear that you feel your marriage is happy. Before I explain our position here at Hope and Healing, I first want to say that it’s none of our business what you and your wife choose to do. We know not everyone will agree with the positions we take here, and we respect people’s process to figure things out. If there are women who are dating and think that masturbation is no big deal, this site and the series will likely not be helpful.

        There are reasons we take the positions we do, and I hope that the following will be helpful in explaining why.

        First, I won’t argue with the idea of focusing on building positive character traits. And it brings up an important point. One of the risks when we talk about overcoming unhealthy sexual behaviors is becoming so fixated on the sexual behaviors that the rest of life is overshadowed and hopelessness ensues. That is not recovery! As we have said elsewhere, a part of the reason this series exists is to encourage women to not be reactive when dating and hearing that men struggle with these things. They should look at the whole, not just at this issue. As Pres. Packer would say, we ought not become *preoccupied* with unworthy behavior (see Step 1 of the Church’s ARP program).

        But (here’s where I explain why and how our positions differ) Pres. Packer *also* says in the same breath that true doctrine is the guide and key to change. So what is the doctrine?

        At Hope and Healing, our interpretation of the doctrine is that sex was not meant to drive a person. The Church’s A Parent’s Guide states that

        “Sexual intimacy is not an involuntary, strictly biological necessity for survival, like breathing and eating. Sexual intimacy between a husband and wife can be delayed or even suspended for long periods of time with no negative effect (for example, when the health of one or the other requires it). Husbands and wives are not compelled to mate because their genes or hormones order them to do so. Sexual powers are voluntary and controllable; the heart and mind do rule.”

        Of course, the Church recogizes that a healthy sexual relationship is good, and that both husbands and wives have needs that can be fulfilled in that relationship. But our point is that as long as the sexual drive is driving, the relationship will not be as healthy as it could be.

        Sexaholics Anonymous also takes a clear stand on masturbation. A key element of its bottom-line description of sobriety is “no sex with self.” I think it’s interesting that you say that porn is easier to stop than masturbation. I can’t speak for SA, but perhaps this is a reason SA takes the position it does — because they know it’s a high standard. But they also know it is attainable!!

        This is the HOPE of the message we seek to share.

        But WHY such high standards? What’s the big deal with masturbation or the idea that a “high libido” demands it if sex is not as frequent as the body seems to demand?

        The key, core principle is personal freedom. Our belief is that as long as sexual drive drives a person, as long as the physical self is driving the spiritual self, that person is not truly free and spirituality is hindered. And definitely, if one is not free to stop sexual behavior in order to avoid sexually acting out, that person is definitely not free!

        And yet, sometimes willpower is not enough to reign in such mortal passions such as the sexual drive. THIS is where the hopeful message of recovery comes in.

        To understand the position we take here, you will see that this kind of “failure” you experienced is not something we desire to criticize or increase shame about. We simply invite people who have experienced that cycle of hopelessness to consider that one of the definitions of addiction is having a behavior that is unwanted and cannot be stopped by willpower alone. (Again, if one cannot stop, one is not truly free.) As such, one need not lose everything or commit serious sexual sin to benefit from the principles that take such a “failure” and see it as an *opportunity* to engage God and the repentance process (repentance in the sense of a new mind, and turning to God in new ways — not necessarily repentance in the sense of temple worthiness or other baseline measures.)

        Again, it is not our business to tell you what to do with your life. But we do hope you might leave a place for some of what is being shared here. We also encourage you to consider reaching out to recovery circles of men who are finding how to give up masturbation and find even more happiness and the good life. These men exist in the Church, in SA and other spiritual-but-not-religious circles, and even among communities of sexually active men who don’t share our same values of no sex before marriage. (Reboot Nation is an example of such a community.)

        You might keep your eye on a new site by LDS men: UnashamedUnafraid.com — the founder of the site is a man still trying to overcome masturbation, but doing so with a spiritual foundation rather than addressing the problem as a physical issue.

        And that is really the bottom line for us at Hope and Healing. We see the solution to issues such as porn and masturbation to be spiritual, not physical. This is why a physical explanation (high libido) is one we don’t subscribe to. Our opinion is that the solution for the shame is not masturbation or therapies that minimize high moral standards or people somehow altering such standards to accommodate compulsive sexual behaviors in a spouse. It’s the process of inside-out healing through association with an empathetic community (people who have walked this path!) that knows how to point you to Christ.

        From our perspective, when women uphold the high moral standards that include no masturbation, if done with understanding of how addiction works and compassion for the process, they can invite men toward this kind of healing.

        That’s what Hope and Healing is about.

      • Lorena

        Andy is your wife really truly accepting of the fact that you choose to engage in sexual behavior (masturbation) that allows you to have a release of the powerful bonding hormone oxytocin in the brain by bypassing her? Sex is meant to be shared with someone you love, each sharing and putting the needs above their partner above their own. When you masturbate you cut out the needs of your marriage and focus on your own, that rush of dopamine and ocytocin. It is selfish. If your wife is cool with that, great, your marriage is your business. If she is hurt or disappointed by it, please know there is a reason she is hurt.

  40. Pattie

    I’ve been through the wringer. My story started from the beginning of our marriage. I just didn’t see it. He keeps saying forgive him he’ll do better and he does for awhile. I have no self esteem while going through chemotherapy I walked into my room and found a note he had written to an old girlfriend about she’ll always be more than a friend and he adored her. He keeps attaching himself to old relationships. He went from viewing to reading it think he thought that wasn’t as bad. I feel like I’ll never be enough. He’s so emotionally distant. 31 years of marriage and I just want to walk away. I am hurt beyond repair. I realize that just saying stop it isn’t enough anymore. Im so lost and hurt. I don’t know if I can ever be repaired.

    • Whitney

      Pattie,
      There is hope and healing to be found in this journey, but it is a long road. The good news is you can start to let God in to repair your terribly wounded heart no matter what your husband is or isn’t doing. I would encourage you to reach out to recognized avenues of healing for spouses of addicts–qualified therapy, recovery groups like SAnon, etc. We would love to have you look under the “Forum” tab at the top of our website and come and join the forum of women who all help each other through this trial.

  41. Recovering

    Being a man that has struggles with porn for the last 6 years I have been in recovery for 1 of those now it is hard to give up, but much progress has been made. I have used this time to learn alot about me and a lot about men and women in general. Here are some things I have learned.

    Men by nature are not emotional, so when your husband doesn’t talk to you or bond with you it is because men and women are different. Nor is talking about relationships something men like to do. Men internalize things. Don’t take my word for this, read any relationship book and you will see this in a few minutes. Men like to bang hammers, play sports. Women enjoy talking and expressing themselves. That is why many books say that women are literally the playboy for relationships because from early age they develop the skills. It is the same reason I don’t expect my wife to talk about huns, cars, sports or trucks…most women don’t care.

    Expectations in marriages aren’t communicated clearly enough. Men and women get unhappy with each other but fail to recognize that most of the time they fail to communicate their feelings or expectations.

    Pornography is a horrible sin, very shameful and secretive. I’m not sure how a woman should act in response to knowing about her spouse addiction. To supportive seems like she accepts it, not supportive or offering no hope means she denies the atonement.

    Seeing how my wife has acted makes me understand why some men want to go to the grave with this sin because many will label us as a lost cause, life time addict, and hopeless. Trust me many of us men and women in some cases might demonstrate no desire to change. But the atonement can heal us. Sometimes it will take a lifetime and for others more instantaneous.

    Accept that you can’t change that person, but do everything in your power to be a good example and always be as positive as you can and encouraging. Charity never faileth.

    • admin Michelle

      Recovering,

      I can’t speak for the author, but I think there is probably more to this than just “men are from Mars, women are from Venus.” Addiction often does impact the ability to plug into and talk about emotions. Family cultures and upbringing or other things can impact ability to connect emotionally.

      I also think even though men and women are different, the hard and fast classifications that you talk about can sometimes get in the way. The reality is that men and women need emotional connection. This is a human need, not just a female need…even though females on the whole may tend to need it more, statistically speaking.

      Also, I’m sorry to hear that you aren’t feeling safe with your wife. One of the hopes we have here at Hope and Healing is to allow women to have a space to get support so that perhaps they can have more strength to try to be a good support for their husbands. But the goal of that support first and foremost needs to be for her own well-being.

      Have you heard of betrayal trauma? If not, I would strongly encourage you to learn more as you try to understand what is happening in your relationship. Often there is a misconception that addicts are the only ones who need charity, patience, love, and support (which they do!). But the effects of betrayal trauma can be debilitating, as in mimicking the symptoms that war veterans have (PTSD). That kind of experience also needs charity, patience, love, and support. Expecting your wife to just naturally be able to be there for you without her having space and encouragement to engage her own deliberate healing process is a bit like expecting her to be there for you while she is in an intensive care unit. She’s not mean or unChristlike. She’s in trauma. She needs the Atonement, too.

      It’s so tough, because marriage partners need each other. But this process of healing will often require some individual work before that kind of mutually-supportive dynamic can evolve.

      As you say, you can’t change anyone. Keep up your recovery work. Congrats on a year! It will be worth it, regardless of her response. Do it for yourself and for God and let the good consequences follow. She will eventually need to make her choices about whether she wants to heal, but your recovery is essential to the relationship being able to heal and it’s all you can control. 🙂

      I do hope if the time ever feels right (not with a desire to change her but out of sincere concern) that you will encourage her to find her own recovery circles — here on our forum, in Church family support groups, via healingthroughchrist.org, through S-Anon or Al-Anon or other support groups. And give her time. This is not an easy process. But healing is possible for both of you. That I know.

  42. Haldane

    I appreciate the courage and patience of the people writing in these comments. I suspect that this page will be getting a lot of attention as a result of the article on KSL. I think it would be helpful for somebody to explain what the problem is with pornography. Is it a feeling of infidelity or betrayal? Is it the exploitation of people working in the sex trade? Is it that an authority figure says it is bad or sinful? Is the premise that all pornography is bad, or just that pornography is bad within a church marriage, or that it is bad if people have agreed not to use it and then break their promises? When people extend the problems of pornography in a vague or general way to fantasy and masturbation, it seems that there is very little left of human sexuality that would not be considered harmful to marriage or as some kind of sin. For this reason, I think it is important to at least try to be specific about what harm and problems people are referring to.

    • admin Michelle

      I hope others will chime in. There are multiple reasons why we take the position we do that pornography is harmful, period.

      Is it a feeling of infidelity or betrayal?
      Yes. But it’s also because pornography use can so easily influence one’s perception of self, others, women, the purpose of sex, what healthy sexuality is, and more. It can impact relationships in subtle ways that aren’t really understood until and unless someone steps away from the world of sex on a screen and sex with self.

      It’s also not uncommon for pornography and masturbation to be done in secret, or to be done even in spite of a wife’s request to have a relationship that is sexually loyal in every way. The dishonesty is one of the things that causes the most pain for women, and that feeling of having to ‘compete’ sexually with stuff on a screen is deeply traumatic for many women.

      In a culture that prides itself, allegedly, on caring about women and equality and such, it’s astounding to me that more people don’t see how pornography degrades women, makes sex a commodity instead of something special between husband and wife, and deeply reinforces the idea that men can and should dominate women — or that a woman’s role is somehow to be a sex object, and her worth is tied only to sex appeal. I can’t express how offensive this is to me as a woman, and I am dumbfounded that any woman could see pornography in a positive light and proclaim to care about women or women’s rights. (I also think it’s degrading to men in a different way, portraying them as nothing short of animalistic and sadistic, and calling that healthy sexuality.) Deviant forms of pornography twist sexuality to even deeper extremes, but yes, betrayal and trauma and objectification and sexualization of women and making sex a commodity all impact women and relationships. That is our position. (And yes, that’s a bit of a personal rant as well.)

      Lastly, many women who are married to addicts will talk about other behaviors or issues that are often tied to compulsive/addictive use of pornography and masturbation. This can include emotional detachment or even abuse; physical or sexual abuse; unhealthy views about womanhood, manhood, fatherhood; deep shame that can translate into unhealthy relationship patterns; and sometimes unaddressed experiences as a child with sexual or other abuse or neglect. Pornography use is often a symptom, evidence of unhealthy coping mechanisms with life’s stresses. (This can be true for any unhealthy coping mechanism — if you don’t know how to cope with the stresses of life, that can and does impact relationships. One reason we are advocating recovery in such a broad way is because we think its principles are beneficial even if someone doesn’t feel themselves to be truly ‘addicted.’ Recovery is not about stopping pornography use; at the core it’s about learning to live in a more healthy and whole way.)

      Is it the exploitation of people working in the sex trade?
      Yes. If you consume porn, you are helping feed a machine of modern-day slavery and abuse of women, children, and men…all the while putting money in the pockets of those who shamelessly exploit others for monetary gain, control, and abuse. There is increasing attention on this far-reaching problem and we invite people of conscience to research and understand this issue. We recommend the National Coalition to End Sexual Exploitation (ncose.org) to understand more about how pornography is a key driver in this so-called industry. Anyone feminist or concerned about racial or social issues should be deeply concerned about this issue.


      Is it that an authority figure says it is bad or sinful?

      This feels a bit like a trick question, because it seems to imply a sort of blind belief in authority, rather than a belief in something bigger than any human. Some people like to make this position about the harms of pornography to be a purely religious debate. Our beliefs strengthen our resolve to uphold this position, to be sure, but this is not a position only held by religiously-minded people. (And some religiously-minded people think that a little porn is ok, and we simply and strongly disagree.)

      That said, since we are a religious-minded website, we also unabashedly adhere to the belief that God Himself is the author of standards regarding sexual behavior, and that sex with self to a computer screen is simply not remotely close to what God intended for sex to be. It’s a bit like dividing your soul. You can’t wholly share that part of you if you are isolating and feeding your sexual drives alone, or bringing other people having sex for money into your relationship and home.

      But aside from the religious perspective, not engaging with sex with self (which is usually what happens with pornography) is part of what it means to be sexually healthy according to Sexaholics Anonymous.

      Is the premise that all pornography is bad, or just that pornography is bad within a church marriage, or that it is bad if people have agreed not to use it and then break their promises?

      We take the position that all pornography is bad, for a combination of reasons including the above (and below) ;). Those who choose to use pornography in their marriages as some sort of joint decision (or even self-justified as something to ‘help’ a relationship) will likely find little useful here on our site.

      I’d also say that yes, whenever any agreement is made in a relationship and it is broken, that is bad, too, but that should go without saying, I think. 🙂

      When people extend the problems of pornography in a vague or general way to fantasy and masturbation, it seems that there is very little left of human sexuality that would not be considered harmful to marriage or as some kind of sin.

      I’m not sure what you are saying here, but we take the position that it is possible to build a lust-free sexual relationship with a spouse, and that removing pornography, fantasy, and masturbation from a relationship are key to building a lust-free life. Sexaholics Anonymous makes it clear that for most people, this is a process, not an event — but in order for the process to begin, one has to actually *want* to overcome lust, rather than find ways to justify its place in one’s life or marriage. Without that desire, the justifications will likely just perpetuate themselves. That’s what we observe, anyway. We see lots of people defending its use, very few people, relatively, actually wanting to understand what life could be like without it and why life without it could be desirable.

      Those who have walked this path and experienced the contrast of lust-driven living vs the freedom of a lust-free life best suited to be able to talk about this, so I would encourage you to find stories of those who have overcome or are seeking to overcome lust addiction, or read the White Book of Sexaholics Anonymous (see sa.org) to understand more how lust addiction works and how people who seek to live progressively lust-free feel in their lives.

      Rowboats and Marbles (rowboatsandmarbles.org) is a great personal experience website of a recovering sex addict as well. His perspective is LDS, so if a religious point of view is not your thing, I would encourage seeking out others stories of recovery from sexual addiction.

      I would also add that there is a growing group of men who talk about the sexual dysfunction that has resulted in their lives because of too much sex with self in front of a screen. Porn-induced erectile dysfunction is a real thing. Check out Reboot Nation for more on that. (Again, it’s not just religious people taking a stand against porn use and masturbation.)

      I would also add that part of the reason pornography is bad is because its use and creation leaves children at risk for unwanted exposure that can be deeply traumatic for them. We believe adults have a responsibility to protect children, both in their homes and in their communities. Debates around pornography usually focus on adults’ selfish desires to use it and defend their ‘right’ to use it, without any consideration for children and their well-being. Call it the second-hand-smoke effect, if you will. That children can do an innocent search online and be fed a barrage of seriously violent and degrading “adult” content should give anyone pause. Again, we appeal to people’s consciences in this regard to think outside of their own sexual box and consider their social responsibility to children in this regard, something not discussed nearly enough in a world of adult “rights.”

      (Are you sorry you asked? Yes, I have strong feelings about this. I hope some of this might be helpful.)

      ~Admin Michelle

      • Haldane

        Great response, Michelle. Thank you so much for taking the time to write out your thoughts. I think one of the commenters above had something about masturbation and fantasy also being harmful in her marriage. My goal was not to challenge anybody or argue, just to request some additional clarification, and you could not have done a better job.

        Thanks again!

        • admin Michelle

          You are welcome. Kudos to you for reading that long thing! 🙂

  43. In the quiet heart...

    I realize I’m a bit late in commenting on this thread, I just discovered this site from an article on KSL.

    Articles like this and one in the Ensign several months ago have lifted a huge burden of guilt for the pain I’ve been feeling. My husband is an addict and everything has always been focused around healing him, accepting him, forgiving him, that I never knew I needed healing too.

    I’m finally coming to understand just how much damage has been done, how much hurt and abuse I’ve swallowed because I was trying to be a “good wife.”
    Thank you! Keep up the good work!

    • Whitney

      So glad you found us. As a betrayed wife, you need just as much recovery and healing as your husband. We hope you continue to search out ways to find this healing, through qualified counseling, support groups, and other resources specifically for betrayal trauma. If you need further support or direction, we would love to have you join our forum and get connected to women who have felt the pain you do. Thank you for your comment.