Many thanks to another woman who submitted her story for WoPA week. We have many more stories and resources on our site for women who are affected in some way by pornography. See the bottom of this post for more resources recommended by this sister.
My husband has a porn addiction. I wish I was alone. I wish I was the only one who was dealing with this. I wish nobody else ever had to deal with the feelings and problems this brings into a marriage. But, I’m not alone. I’m far from alone.
I had been married less than a year the first time I found pornography my husband had viewed. I was shocked, horrified and confused. We were so happy — the perfect marriage. Why did he have this? What was wrong with ‘us’ that had him looking to this trash? I confronted him when he got home from work, and he broke down and confessed to first being introduced to porn at nine years old and an ever increasing interest in it grew until in his later teens as he found massage books and his older brother’s porn stash. He ‘got it under control’ long enough to get out on his two year LDS mission, and was shocked when it quickly resumed once he got home, escalating in frequency as he spent time on campus, discovering internet porn with a laptop and wi-fi. He started and stopped often. He trudged along through school, spending more time searching for pornography than studying. He’d been trying to ‘stop’ for a bit, realizing at 24, that life wasn’t going anywhere. He felt like he should come hang out with me and my friends. Within weeks we were inseparable. Within the year, we were married. People commented all the time they’d never seen two happier people. He was more than I even knew I wanted. He was so in love with me, so doting and enamored that complete strangers would chuckle and comment, “Wow, he sure loves you!” I had the perfect life.
And it felt like it came crashing down around me. I mean sure, the porn itself was a hard pill to swallow — but how could he lie to me?
But, despite dealing with some self-esteem issues, I was ready to forgive and move on. Then it happened again, I found some pictures he emailed himself so he could ‘check them out later’. This time our Bishop suggested counseling. The counselor was kind and sympathetic, assured me this wasn’t about me ‘not being enough’, and I started my education on porn addiction and what it was all about. My husband attended all the sessions, but never seemed to really ‘try’ like I wanted him to. The journaling, the note-taking, the self-awareness, none of it was happening like it should. But he was seemed so repentant and begging my forgiveness, and we moved forward, with that particular trial securely behind us.
Apparently my porn addiction education wasn’t thorough enough yet. I just didn’t get it. It popped up again. We talked to a Bishop again. This time we had it.
Every single time I was the one who found it (besides one or two token, “I looked at a Sports Illustrated edition, I’m so sorry!”) He’d tell me he was so sorry, that he was just so afraid of hurting me that he couldn’t bring himself to tell me. But he’s say he’d never lie to me to the face — so keep asking him about it, thinking that if I asked him, he’d be unable to lie.
Not true. I was lied to. A lot. While looking him in the eye. That hurts so much worse than the porn.
This went on for a few years . . . once to twice a year I’d ‘catch’ some slip up or another. He’d promise to do better. Rinse and repeat.
It wasn’t until a couple of years ago that the reality of our situation hit. Once again I found out he had been looking at it, but this time he confessed that it had always been there, only gone for brief times.
Another friend of mine has a husband dealing with the same thing, and he put it this way, “Take everything I’ve told you about my problem — frequency, obsession, acting out — and double it. Maybe quadruple it.” The addiction needs secrecy, and my husband had never let me see the full picture — it was too embarrassing, too painful, too ‘real’. But this time the magnitude of the problem came spilling out. The porn had always been there. All those times I thought he’d ‘slipped’ up when I discovered some crumb here or there — those were the few things that had fallen through his trying to cover his tracks. He might have stopped for a few weeks, even months, but most of the time I thought it was under control, it hadn’t been. He’d usually just been spinning his wheels long enough to get me off his back, then he went back to it. Sometimes he’d really wanted to get away from it, at least for awhile, but usually at least part of him was fully aware he wasn’t really trying. My world felt like it shattered. I felt stupid, worthless, broken and scared. I’d been so lied to. By someone who loved me so much (and I had no doubt he loved me). Purposefully manipulated and hidden from so that he could keep his secret part of his life without me causing any pesky cognitive dissonance.
But it was all out now. And my husband went 11 months without looking at porn. But, even with this long term abstinence from viewing porn, he had never really entered ‘recovery’. He wasn’t doing counseling and 12-step groups. And neither was I. We both just wanted to put this behind us. If we’d truly understood what we were up against, then it wouldn’t come as no surprise when he slipped back into the addiction. Earlier last year I discovered that he had started looking at pornography again.
The last eighteen months have been one of the most humbling, and joyous, times of our lives. My husband did decide that he couldn’t keep going through this same cycle over and over again without losing everything, and has since entered recovery. He attends meetings, journals, goes to group meetings. He’s found incredible peace and camaraderie and acceptance in attending group meetings and therapy. He’s a walking Brené Brown book, talking constantly about the amazing blessing vulnerability has been. He can talk for hours about the pain and damage done by shame. He is a new man, and while he was already among the best men I knew, he is so much happier and better now.
For me, I am finding peace in my own recovery. I’ve made countless friends, I’ve opened up and talked to friends, family and others with whom I’ve felt prompted to share. I’ve been met with a few awkward looks, but for the most part I’ve found acceptance, love and understanding. I am so much happier not living a secret life where I didn’t let anyone in. I now have found my truest friends and have truly come to understand ‘mourning with those who mourn, and comforting those who stand in need of comfort.’
I have been there sisters. I’m still there, even with 18 months of sobriety, recovery is still a part of our lives every day. And we wouldn’t change that. The things I have learned about my Savior, about the purpose of trials in life, and about betrayal trauma and how it was affecting me, have been among the greatest lessons of my life.
If you are going through this, you are not alone. I have witnessed miracles in my own life, and in my husband’s, as we have reached outside ourselves to others who are going through the same thing. I am finding healing and peace, and a relationship with my Savior that I would walk through this and any fire to have. If you are going through this, please seek out your own healing, independent of what your husband chooses to do. Aren’t we commanded to bear one another’s burdens, to comfort those who stand in need of comfort and to mourn with those who mourn? We must get outside ourselves to be able to accomplish these most Christlike tasks.
You are not alone sisters, not one of us, no matter the trial in our lives, none of us are alone. God gave us each other. If you are dealing with this particular addiction in your life, in your marriage, or any addiction or unhealthy relationship, please reach out to those who’ve come before you and can help you through the pain to find the peace and comfort that can only come through the Atonement. This is his addiction — but it’s left you with real and sometimes significant trauma. Your husband will need to seek out recovery to get to where he needs to be — but whether he’s ready to do that now or not, you have no control over that. You have control over exactly one person in your life, and that’s you. There are meetings, there are online forums, and there are likely sisters in your own ward or neighborhood who would be happy to share their experiences in recovery with you — ask your Bishop if he can work out an introduction for you to someone who’s been where you are.
– Your sister & friend
[This sister also shares some of the resources that have helped her and others.]
If you are dealing with this, I want to assure you — it is NOT your fault. Please educate yourself so you understand the real issues and scope of the problem. Please reach out — I wasted years of letting the adversary use this trial to beat me down and tell me lies about myself. By opening up and reaching out, there is no place for the adversary’s lies to hide within me anymore. I’m compiling a list of resources that I’ve found helpful.
www.combattingpornography.org (12 Step Addiction Recovery meetings – like AA)
This is the official LDS Church website. Here you can find local support meetings. There are meetings for families dealing with both ‘general addiction’ and specifically for ‘pornography addiction.’
www.addorecovery.com (Free, and amazing, workshops for wives)
A brand new therapy group that specializes in pornography addiction. While I strongly recommend counseling for those going through this, I believe prayer and your own experience lead you to where you need to be, and I wouldn’t endorse one therapist over another. But, the reason I include this company, is that they are doing something unheard of . . . they are focusing primarily on the healing of wives, and they’re offering a remarkable 6 week women’s group, complete with assessments, homework, feedback from a therapist, journaling assignments, and the weekly meetings — all free of charge. I know and talk with many, many women through my work on this topic, and each of us agreed when we went through their flagship session that this was an amazingly healing experience. I would highly recommend this to anyone dealing with this in their marriage, and what do you have to lose?
www.healingthroughchrist.org (A 12-step workbook)
An LDS based 12 Step group, with a free downloadable workbook. This workbook is AMAZING, and there are 12 step sponsors available for those who want to actively seek after their own healing.
www.hopeandhealinglds.com (Moderated Forum/Discussion Board)
Linked from this website you can find a private forum for LDS women affected by a loved one’s pornography addiction (wives, mothers, girlfriends). It is an active online community that welcomes any woman going through this trial with open arms. The moderator of this group has also spent countless hours gathering a nearly endless amount of resources sorted by category/topic.
http://ldsrhr.blogspot.com/ (Resource bank)
While not officially an LDS site, this website is a catalog of hundreds of resources for LDS men and women dealing with pornography addiction for themselves or in their marriage. Articles, professional therapist posts, blog posts from wives and from addicts, Conference talks and more.
www.salifeline.org (12-step Addiction Recovery for support person/spouse)
“Fighting pornography through education about addiction and support for recovery”
Under the “Help, a loved one” button on top there is an article called “The Effect of Pornography on the Spouse”. I cannot recommend this enough. SA Lifeline Foundation has also created a book called “Understanding Pornography and Sexual Addiction; A Resource for LDS Parents and Leaders” that is a great foundation for educating ourselves about this issue — you can download it for free from their website (or purchase it for $20 in the store, but personally, I’d get it free.)
www.rowboatandmarbles.org (A Recovering Addict’s Information Blog)
“Essays of Hope About Recovery from Sex and Pornography Addiction from the LDS Perspective”
A recovering LDS sex/porn addict who has an amazing ability to explain and share this trial in a way that opens eyes and breeds understanding. I suggest everyone read his free downloadable ebook. (It’s also sold online at Deseret Book). For more women and men that I can count, THIS was the resource that suddenly made everything click, that ‘ah-ha’ moment of, “OH, so that’s what this is!”
Download this SOON though, even just save it to your desktop for later use, because now that it’s in store, it won’t be available for free much longer.
http://www.bythelightofgrace.com/ (An LDS woman addict’s blog, with many resources.)
http://www.byutv.org/watch/b933fe5c-3201-4cca-a124-e4e6492a9122/real-families-real-answers-avoidingovercoming-pornography A BYU/TV resource about pornography use and addiction.