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Biblical Counseling Coalition: Grace & Truth

“Help! I Just Discovered My Husband Is Looking at Pornography!”

Help! I Just Discovered My Husband Is Looking at Pornography

BCC Staff Note: You are reading Part One of a two-part blog mini-series on biblical responses when we discover that a family member is struggling with pornography. Return tomorrow to Read Part Two: What Do I Do If My Child Is Looking at Pornography?

“In the last days, perilous times shall come. Men…shall be lovers of their own selves….” (2 Timothy 3:1-5).

Pornography – readily available everywhere from billboards to sex flicks to pc websites and chat-rooms, as easy as “sexting” pictures of self and others. The format matters little; the results are the same….devastation. Because it’s easily accessible in secret, it can be a very private sin, but the result is a very large explosion!

The secrecy surely magnifies the betrayal, the anger, and horror a wife feels when she discovers her husband’s secret sin. She may have known it was a past problem and believed he lived in victory, or she may have been clueless to his addiction and feels duped by him. Still, she knows it is not “normal” and feels violated, exposed in shame that the man she trusted has taken what was sacred between them and viewed other women and other acts in violation to their sacred covenant of marriage. It is among the worst betrayals!

The wife’s biggest pain is that porn’s a fantasy, hidden away in his mind. It can’t be stopped or monitored by another unless the porn addict chooses. A wife can’t compete with a fantasy! She loses faith that their intimacy is real – it may just be a part of his fantasy about someone else he’s viewed. If she withdraws, he may use that as an excuse for his sin. If she gives, she may feel used, not loved. It feels like a “no win”!

So what is a Christian wife to do when she discovers her husband is into pornography?

1. Listen objectively before passing judgment or reacting in anger or disappointment.

Don’t jump to conclusions. Listen with discernment to be sure you have the facts. Is his story consistent with what you know? Listen carefully – Proverbs 18:13.

2. Begin the discussion privately between the two of you – Mt 18:15.

Try to understand his depth of involvement, but it is rare to get the whole story the first time. God didn’t get it straight from Adam and Eve, and your husband isn’t likely to respond much better without help. But a good discussion is two-way, so ask him to listen to how you are feeling and how his sin affects your marriage and also his relationship with the Lord.

Appeal to him to get help. If he refuses and you are convinced you have the facts, Matthew 18:16-17 says to involve help anyway. Be discerning about whom you choose to involve, and keep the circle small. Don’t run to others who are not a part of the problem, or a part of the solution. That includes other family members. Gossip is destructive, even if it is true.

3. Seek to discern if his heart attitude toward his sin one of repentance, or excuses and justification for wrong?

Anger indicates lack of repentance. Worldly sorrow feels bad that he got caught or hurt you. Godly sorrow produces the fruit of repentance, which is to change. Pray that he will come to a place of true godly sorrow – 2 Corinthians 7:10.

But what if he doesn’t want help? Neither did the Prodigal initially. Keep praying and trusting God, and getting help for yourself. It is easy to focus on his sin, but you must choose to focus on your faithful Lord instead, and on your own growth through this difficult trial (James 1:2-4).

His desire for pornography is not about you, though every wife I’ve counseled initially believed she should have been enough for him and that it is somehow her fault. It is not! He chose to sin.

4. Remember, he will need those who will listen with compassion and humility, knowing we all are candidates to sin – Galatians 6:1-5.

God has given you permission to involve those who can help. The truth will come easier when a pastor, counselor, or friend listens and then guides him into accountability in love, not in shame or anger, because love unifies and encourages – James 1:19-20. The goal is restoration.

5. The depth of involvement that comes out of these discussions will determine the kind of help.

Will a men’s accountability group and installing Covenant Eyes or another computer accountability program be enough? Perhaps for some men, yes. Godly sorrow produces change. For others, a more intense individual counseling with a godly man who can unpack perhaps years of wrong thinking and help him develop a lifestyle of self-control in the seven building blocks for moral purity.1

Wives do not make good counselors or accountability partners for their husbands, but function best in the God-given roles to support, encourage, and pray for their husband’s growth in sanctification. In fact, you as the wife will need your own counselor and encouragement as you go through this trial with your husband. Choose a counselor that will keep you pointed vertically, and that will use Scripture to teach, comfort, and guide you through this difficult time in your marriage. As each of you focus on your own growth and sanctification, in time you will unify into that three fold cord that is not easily broken (Ecclesiastes 4:12).

6. Model the grace and mercy that God the Father so graciously bestows on each of us when we sin and repent!

Forgiveness comes with true repentance and change; it is choosing to model after the way God forgives us! Rebuilding trust is the process that takes more time, observing his accountability, faithfulness, and consistency. But trust first begins vertically, trusting God even when you fear a future fraught with anxiety, with or without him! Going vertical strengthens you to face your anxieties and disappointments, and to choose forgiveness when there are no guarantees.2

7. Work on your communication and relationship as a couple.

After he is growing in his vertical relationship with the Lord, it is time to evaluate the horizontal in every sphere.3 When a crisis in a marriage becomes a stepping stone to greater growth and intimacy, it strengthens the relationship and builds a platform for ministry to other couples in crisis.

Join the Conversation

Which of the 7 biblical principles of responding to a husband’s pornography do you find most helpful? What other biblical principles would you add?

1 Building Blocks to Moral Purity

2 Forgiveness worksheet

3 Intimacy Inventory

Find these and other resources at:

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  • Chris Hoskinson

    One thing I didn’t see mentioned is the role intimacy, or the lack of, plays into the problem. My own problem with porn began as a substitute for the lack of physical intimacy in my marriage to my first wife. I used it so that I would not cheat and have an affair with another woman. As with most addictions, it soon required more and more to satisfy my needs. I spent money we didn’t have, and stayed in a cycle of needing it and guilt over doing it. It destroyed my first marriage. I don’t want to blame my ex-wife completely because it was my weakness that allowed it to happen, but she bears a responsibility because she created the opening, especially after having been unfaithful to me once. I reasoned that at least I wasn’t cheating on her.

  • KRamsey

    Chris Hoskinson is foolish for saying his ex wife bears a responsibility bc she created the opening. He himself created the opening. He didn’t handle the issues in his relationship. He made the decision to let his mind go there. He didn’t protect his own heart, and I can almost guess that there was a reason she did not want physical imtimacy. Women need emotional intimacy in order to be physically intimate. I would say that porn was a substitute for lack of physical intimacy, which was a direct result of the lack of emotional intimacy. Addicts always need to blame others.

    • DJ

      You know KRamsey, it appears you went directly to the comments section and by-passed points 1-7 in the article. Perhaps it is worth a read prior to commenting.

      I will concede that physical intimacy springs from emotional intimacy. However I can also state from personal experience that the wife can choose to not guard her heart, to act on temptation and cheat, to break that emotional bond and not seek to repair it. Where does that leave the man? For me, trying to honor my vows, stay with my wife, keep my family in tact for lots of reasons. But it has also left me very alone in a marriage for many, many years even after numerous counseling sessions. Marriage for me is a combination of having a good room-mate and also a feeling of being trapped, not being able to fully enjoy an abundant life and full, deep relationship with a Godly woman. I guess I am an old-fashioned Christian – enduring whatever the cost.

      The signals have been strong and consistent that she was not interested in me using every excuse to avoid any alone time (including using children as a buffer – a terrible thing to do). The rejection is devastating to a man in many areas. It now is to the point that I have withdrawn totally. I am giving her the space she wants. I try to fill the emptiness with service and activities with the kids – being ‘the good Dad’, all to the detriment of my primary human relationship – the marriage.

      Where is the spouse’s responsibility regarding providing for their mates needs (I Cor, 7:4)? Unfortunately some women refuse to see this as a God created biological fact and prefer to project their preferences on to their husband – (“I don’t have that need, therefore he must not”).

      Porn is a terrible thing, as are most sins – afterall, the ends thereof are death. But “K” I see you have your stones ready to throw, and since your comments portray yourself as one without sin, you may cast yours first.

      My suspicion however is you are one that has been hurt by porn and therefore the extra-sensitivity causes you to bristle at this particular sin more than most others, and why not?

      To Chris, I am sorry that your life took this path, whether pushed, lead, or overtly jumping in to it. I am sorry that the damage to your marriage either prior to porn or as a final result of it, could not be repaired. But I do thank you for your honest, open confession in an effort to warn not only the man tempted, but the woman calloused to meeting her husband at the place he is – Needs and all so that no one finds themselves, and their relationship at that place.

  • A. Stapleton

    Triple-X Church has an amazing online 30-day workshop called “X3 Pure” which walks people through the recovery and redemption process. It gets to the deeper issues instead of just “trying harder” to not engage in the behaviors again. Highly recommend it.

  • Staystrong

    I think the largest point to make on this subject is in regards to the psychological affliction mixed with the sin. As a young boy to have the sins of pornography in the home environment and have that affliction at an early age lays out a different picture. For someone, who as a child, didn’t understand and was never taught on the matter of sexual desires can have this confusion compounded into adulthood. As an adult man who is Catholic and yearns not to do the very sin he was afflicted with as a child also shows a psychological dilemma. It still sits on the mans shoulders to stop the fantasies and push that sexual desire away. It’s even harder though to have had that instilled as a youngster and clutters the picture when a spouse finds this dirty secret. How is a woman suppose to respond to her husband when he says that he doesn’t like doing it as much as she hates it? So if there is an even level of hate towards the sin but the man is afflicted from an early age what is the couple to do? One can only hope that a woman afflicted by her husbands sin can realize there is hope and love that always remains if he is willing to show remorse. Children aside – the love that a true man has for his wife is endless and the child only strengthens that bond. No matter the situation religious woman need to take a step back and look at this society that has drawn a new environment for mans temptation with this sin. It’s been drawn out through the past 60 years or so in modern movies and television so far to the point that what was considered inappropriate now is. Not that it is – and that’s my point. The moral value that society has gotten into is another part of the piece and the psychological aspect of how religious men deal with their afflictions will vary immensely.

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