My Boyfriend's Porn Addition vs My Husband's Porn Addiction

My Boyfriend's Porn Addition vs My Husband's Porn Addiction

Finding out about my boyfriend’s porn addiction vs. finding out about my husband’s porn addiction

(Part 1) I had been through a pornography addiction confession before in a dating relationship 20 years ago. I was and still am thankful to God that my boyfriend had the courage to tell me before we were engaged or married. I remained relatively calm on the outside and asked lots of questions. Then my legs and whole body began to shake - my body was in shock. I cried. He seemed genuinely sorrowful and repentant. He had first been exposed to porn by a friend when he was a little boy – and let’s be clear – that exposure was abuse. He had been emotionally abused and abandoned by his mother and had been cheated on by his only other previous girlfriend. My internal reaction was this: I can’t abandon him like every other woman in his life had done. I cared about him. I also told him I would not consider marrying him if the porn addiction was not dealt with.

So I decided to do some research, try to get him some help. At the same time, I felt like I was going to explode if I didn’t talk to someone about it. He was an youth pastor intern, so we decided I would talk with the youth pastor’s wife. She told me that porn use was common and not a big deal. My gut knew there was something very wrong with what she told me. But I didn’t seek out others to talk with because of wanting to protect my boyfriend’s position and future career as a youth pastor. So to google I went. 20 years ago, there wasn’t much to be found, not to mention how tricky it is to find information on porn addiction without finding porn itself. Every Man’s Battle was just coming out, and I ordered it for him and read it myself too. I concluded there was hope for him to be free of this porn addiction. He was supposedly being held accountable by the youth pastor.

A few months went by. I asked how things were going. He said, actually, he hadn’t ever stopped looking at porn, but he was serious this time and really wanted to change. You can probably guess the end of this story. That betrayal cycle of “nothing’s changed, but I’m serious this time” happened again. And again. The third time I realized I wasn’t helping him. Around the same time he also conveniently decided he “might” be interested in another woman. I ended the relationship, as I think he was trying to provoke me to do. I told him I would forgive him, and I did. It was a process that took a couple of years. I could finally think about what happened and not have an adrenaline dump and feel the rage and pain rising. I had compassion and pity for the little boy that was emotionally abandoned and abused. I could pray for him to find freedom in God and wish him well. But I also never had to see him again.

Finding out about my boyfriend’s porn addiction vs. finding out about my husband’s porn addiction

(Part 2) Fast forward to dating my now husband...I told him about this experience I’ve shared with you. I asked him if he had ever used porn. He said he had in college – his roommate had lots of videos and he helped himself all during his college years. But he said he hadn’t used porn since college – a claim of 15 years of sobriety/freedom from it. I was encouraged that he was “honest” about his past and believed him. I asked him to tell me if it was ever tempting in the future so we could fight against it together. We got married. Five years later, a miscarriage, lots of autoimmune illness for me, and a toddler later, my husband casually told me he was acting out with porn and was thinking about having a physical affair with a total stranger. Like my previous boyfriend, my husband had also experienced abandonment from his parents. He’s never faced the anger, pain and grief yet.

I tried to remain calm on the outside and asked lots of questions calmly. My body started shaking like it had during the first disclosure with my previous boyfriend. I remembered the feeling. He didn’t apologize. He rationalized, he justified, he blamed me, he gaslighted me, he minimized, he compared himself to other men who used porn even more frequently. Again, I told him I would forgive him (unilateral forgiveness is not the same thing as reconciliation which requires both parties to be committed to honest relationship). I told him pornography is adultery and he had broken the covenant of our marriage before God. I told him he had effectively abandoned our marriage (although I was just finding out about it), and he had a choice now to come back to the marriage in faithfulness, but I would not stay married to him unless he found freedom from porn addiction through God. I started to see how he had lied to himself so much more than he had lied to me. The lying was worse than the acting out. The total destruction of trust and the idea of the person you thought you knew is excruciating.

I was deep in a state of shock. I was thankful I had already learned some things about porn addiction (though I had so much more to learn), and I already knew it wasn’t about sex. I knew it wasn’t about me in any way shape or form. I knew it wasn’t my shame to carry. And again, I knew I had to talk to someone or I would explode. So I shared with my pastor’s wife, who I already knew was a safe person. She spoke truth and pointed me back to Jesus, she prayed for us. She confirmed how big a deal it was, and that I should expect nothing less than faithfulness from my husband.

A couple weeks after d-day (disclosure day), I was feeling so much panic in my body when I knew my husband was coming home from work and I would have to interact with him that I asked him to go sleep in the guest room and give me space after our toddler was asleep.

Back to google I went. I found so many more resources than there were 20 years ago. It was still a struggle to find Biblically based help that was full of truth and wisdom. I found a wives’ intensive for spouses of sex addicts that was incredibly helpful.

I eventually found a counselor who has lived through betrayal trauma and is still married to her husband, is a Christian, and is an expert in sex addiction. I learned about redemptive separation and decided I would initiate it with the help of my counselor. In this kind of separation we are each supposed to be working on recovery/grieving/ healing and not having emotional conversations that spiral into more hurt. We started the separation with the *hope* of reconciliation, but no guarantee. It was a huge step in feeling a measure of safety and having the space to grieve freely.

I tried several weekly wives support groups before I found Captives Free. It was a breath of fresh air that it’s free, it’s substantial in it’s content (lots of scripture, a workbook with difficult but wise and helpful things to work through), and that I’m going through it with lots of other women going through the same struggle and pain. The wisdom, wise application of scripture, and challenging assignments are what I really need right now.

One of the Captives Free lessons on grieving about admitting our feelings was especially helpful to me. We went through so many verses where God himself feels what we humans regard as “unacceptable” emotions. God loathes (Ps. 95:10), he gets angry (Ps. 78:49-50), he hates (Prov 6:16), he is grieved (Gen 6:6). God feels them and has never sinned. Since discovering my husband’s betrayal, I have felt all these along with just about every feeling on any feeling chart/wheel I could find. Looking at scripture and seeing God feel these things allows me to be honest when I have “negative” emotions. The emotions are part of the way we are made in his image. I’m working on acknowledging and feeling these emotions honestly without them leading to sin.

And in the meantime, I have continued to share about the crisis I’m going through with other women at church, close friends, family. I know I would still be floundering without this varied community of people in my life to support us and pray for us. I don’t know if reconciliation will be part of our future - that is up to my husband cooperating with God to change his heart, to have godly sorrow that leads to repentance, and walk in true freedom. But I know I will be ok, secure in the love of God – my Maker who is my husband. (Isaiah 54:5)

J.I.