Help! My Husband is Addicted to Porn! 10 Ways to Cope

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While I was selling books after a women’s retreat 15 years ago, a woman with graying hair deliberately stayed at the very back of the line. Everyone was gone by the time she reached me. Holding out a book for me to sign, the woman smiled nervously. We made small talk, then, she cautiously looked around.

“I want to ask you something,” she began, then paused, searching for words. “It’s too embarrassing to tell anyone I know, but I thought you might have a suggestion. My husband is retired and I just recently discovered that he… he…well, I caught him looking at porn. I found out he’s been doing it for awhile.”

My heart broke for her. The day had been filled with Catholic inspiration and joy, but this woman carried a secret burden. I don’t remember my suggestion, but I know it felt inadequate. Back then, there was a dearth of Catholic resources for a scourge that has continued to grow. But now, there are specific Catholic resources to help.

Photo via Pixabay (2016), CC0 Public Domain.

Photo via Pixabay (2016), CC0 Public Domain.

U.S. Bishops Address Porn

Last November, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops addressed pornography in the document: Create in Me a Clean Heart: A Pastoral Response to Pornography. They call it “a mortal sin that needs to be confessed in order for the person to receive God’s forgiveness.” The bishops noted it is widespread and men are not the only ones that become addicted. They also strongly encouraged spouses.

“You are not alone, nor are you to blame for your spouse’s pornography use,” they explained. “The Church accompanies you with love and tenderness as you confront this sin and its effects on your marriage and family life. You have been deeply hurt. You feel betrayed, deceived, and even traumatized….”

The bishops stated that God wants to heal marriages and that a spouse can be a source of strength and support. “For those of you whose spouse is in denial or rejects help, know that the Church is here for you.”

Recovery and Support for Wives

Dr. Peter Kleponis, the Assistant Director and a marriage and a family therapist at the Comprehensive Counseling Services and Institute for Marital Healing, specializes in helping men overcome pornography addictions.  He is the author of Integrity Restored: Helping Catholic Families Win the Battle Against Pornography and the new workbook: Integrity Starts Here! A Catholic Approach to Restoring Sexual Integrity.

In an interview, Kleponis explained how he has also helped wives to cope with their husband’s addiction. He used the example of a client, Monica, who was devastated to discover her husband Kyle was using pornography (not real names). “He refused to get outside help but promised her that he would never view pornography again,” Kleponis said. Since Kyle would not go to counseling, Monica went alone to learn how to help. She began her own recovery process, which included counseling, a support group, and spiritual direction.

“At first, Kyle was taken aback by Monica’s insistence that he enter a recovery program,” Kleponis said. “However, he eventually admitted he was grateful for it.” It took several years for them to restore their marriage, but he explained that trust can take a long time to heal.
People should keep in mind that scientists recognize addiction as a chronic disease that changes the brain’s structure and function, according to Kleponis. Thus, keeping resolutions are extremely difficult to do without professional help. “There is also a spiritual battle raging on,” he said. “Turning to God adds divine power to follow a treatment plan. Satan and his minions want to destroy individual lives, marriages, families, careers, and our whole society.”

Kleponis warned there will be temptations and challenges along the way, but not to be discouraged because even in the falls, God can continue to draw closer and build us up.

Dr. Kleponis’s 5 Strategies for Wives

1. Realize that pornography is a sin, but an addiction is a disease, like alcoholism. As such, it requires professional treatment. Viewing it as a disease makes it easier confront a husband without shaming or ridiculing him and to seek recovery.
2. A wife is never responsible. It was his decision and it’s his responsibility to work on his recovery. Your job is to pray for him daily and give him love and moral support.
3. Shame keeps most addicts from getting help. They may believe no one could ever love them now, especially God. A husband needs his wife’s compassion and mercy.
4. Insist your husband enter a recovery program. It should include individual and marital counseling, a sobriety plan, support group attendance, Catholic spirituality, education in healthy intimacy and sexuality, and growth in virtue. Let him know that if he choses not to enter a recovery program it could jeopardize the marriage. That’s how serious this is!
5. Provide your husband with resources (and familiarize yourself with them) to understand recovery, such as Integrity Starts Here! A Catholic Approach to Restoring Sexual Integrity.

The U.S. Catholic Bishops’ Suggestions for Spouses

6. Pray for your spouse’s change of heart and seek opportunities to encourage him or her.
7. Set clear boundaries. If possible, such as installing an online monitoring program, clearing the home of any pornography.
8. Refuse to be used as an excuse for your spouse’s pornography use.
9. Take care of your own health.
10. Get support. There are support groups and counselors for spouses of addicted persons that can help you in this struggle.

Catholic Resources

Integrity Starts Here! A Catholic Approach to Restoring Sexual Integrity by Dr. Peter Kleponis

IntegrityRestored.com

 Integrity Restored: Helping Catholic Families Win the Battle Against Pornography Chapters 4, 5, 11 & 15 are especially for wives.

Institute for Marital Healing

Delivered: True Stories of Men & Women Who Turned from Porn to Purity

MattFradd.com

Catholic.com – Overcoming Porn Addition

Covenant Eyes

Reclaim Sexual Health

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops approved list of pornography help resources

Shattered Vows: Hope and Healing for Women Who Have Been Sexually Betrayed by Debra Laaser

When Your Husband is Addicted to Pornography: Healing the Wounded Heart by Vicki Tiede

Pure Eyes, Clean Heart: A Couple’s Journey to Freedom from Pornography by Jen & Craig Ferguson

Mending Shattered Hearts: A Guide for Partners of Sex Addicts by Stephanie Carnes        

A L.i.f.e. Guide for Spouses by Melissa Haas

 

Copyright 2016 Patti Maguire Armstrong

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About Author

Patti Maguire Armstrong and her husband have ten children. She is an award-winning author and was managing editor and co-author of Ascension Press’s Amazing Grace Series. Her newest books are: Big Hearted: Inspiring Stories from Everyday Families, a collection of stories to inspire family love, and Dear God, I Don't Get It and the sequel, Dear God, You Can't Be Serious, children's fiction that feeds the soul through a fun and exciting story. Patti is a correspondent for the National Catholic Register, Our Sunday Visitor & Dakota Catholic Action. She has appeared on EWTN 4 times and Fox and Friends as well as Catholic radio stations across the country.

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