His Porn Addiction is

NOT Your Fault! 

Mark B. Kastleman, BCC, BCPC

Stephen Moore, LCSW, CSAT 

Every time we meet with spouses of sexual addicts, grappling with the trauma of a husband’s betrayal, our hearts go out to them. In the faces of these amazing women, we see echoes of our own wives, and the anguish that our poor choices have caused; the tears we’ve been responsible for; the sadness we’ve brought them. And it isn’t fair. 

This is not a trial you asked for. No woman enters a marriage expecting to deal with a situation of this magnitude. No wife says "I do" dreaming of the poison that is on the horizon. Perhaps you were aware of your husband’s porn addiction before marriage but were unaware of how serious it was. Perhaps your husband concealed or downplayed his past prior to marriage, or his addictive tendencies didn’t start until after you were married. It doesn’t really matter, because no matter the circumstance, it isn’t fair. You did nothing to deserve this. And it’s not your fault. 

It's NOT Your Fault!

If you find yourself grappling with these issues, please believe us when we say you are not responsible for your husband’s addiction. There is so much more we want to say about this, but for now, please practice trusting in the fact that it is not your fault. Your husband and others may blame you, either inferring or claiming outright that a better sexual relationship with you, for example, could have or would have prevented his addiction. This is absolutely false.

 

Though it may be difficult to accept (particularly for the addict), the faster you and your spouse can agree on the fact that overcoming porn addiction is his responsibility, the faster you will make real progress in the recovery process. Are there actions you can take that would improve your marriage? Probably. But that doesn’t mean you are in any way responsible for his betrayal! True accountability is the bedrock of healing. 

 

Love Your Marriage Enough

to Focus On YOU!

For many of the women we work with, discovering their husband’s addiction propels them to hyper vigilance over their spouse’s recovery: they often become the policewoman in the marriage; the absolver of their husband’s indiscretions; the keeper of their husband’s secrets. The line between love and enablement in the recovery process is a thin one; often the actions a spouse takes from a place of love can actually enable further inappropriate behavior.

 

Often, a spouse will try to work on the marriage itself, or work to compensate in various ways for her husband’s seemingly greater-than-normal need for sex. There is no body type, sexual position, set of lingerie or physical enhancement that would have prevented your husband’s addiction. Sadly, trying to compensate in these ways (again from a place of wanting to help the marriage) can actually cause further damage, both to you through self-betrayal and through feeding your husband’s use of sex as a way of coping and escaping from life’s challenges. 

The best way you can work on your marriage may actually seem counterintuitive: it is to focus first on yourself and healing your betrayal trauma. Doing so will give your marriage a chance to really succeed. To be clear, we aren’t saying that you shouldn’t support your husband and his recovery; nothing can be further from the truth. But learning to do so in healthy ways without compromising your own values, standards or expectations for fidelity is the key. 

 

It Begins with Boundaries:

Loving Yourself 

Healthy recovery from betrayal trauma for a spouse begins with learning what your needs are, both inside and outside of your marriage relationship, and then working to establish healthy boundaries around those needs. Your emotional safety needs to be protected at all costs. There is often resistance from a husband when this process of setting boundaries begins. He may well attempt to hide his porn use through secrecy, denial and elaborate coverups. It can be difficult to know the exact extent and depth of his porn problem and other sexual addiction behaviors. He may also engage in what is known as "gaslighting" where he turns the tables and tries to make it seem as if you are the one at fault; the crazy person or the one who needs help. 

 

For example, a wife who doesn’t feel emotionally safe to connect sexually with her spouse may experience pressure, either from her spouse, family members or other misinformed parties, to do so before she is ready. These people are wrong. Marriage covenants between a husband and wife do not require one partner to compromise who they are for the sake of either their spouse or the relationship. If you find yourself in this position, the guidance of a good therapist can be very helpful. A skilled professional can help teach you how to set healthy boundaries both for yourself and your relationship. 

 

Setting these boundaries requires real change, but believe us when we say, “It’s worth it!” When each of our wives began taking such actions early in our recovery process, we mistakenly resisted in some ways. Even as professionals, we were afraid of change and losing our marriages. But when our wives loved us enough to hold boundaries with us and within the marriage, though frustrating and difficult, their determination was vital for our recovery and the stability of our marriages. It allowed us to learn to hold ourselves accountable and break through denial. It empowered us to make lasting changes by doing the hard work of recovery. We thank God every day for the courage and bravery our wives displayed in those moments when they loved us enough to stand up to our addiction-based thinking and actions. 

 

There is Hope! 

Things may look bleak for you at this moment; you likely have much fear and anxiety for the future. Stay the course. Good recovery for you involves learning to put yourself first in healthy ways. The beauty of your individual recovery process is that it doesn’t require your husband to recover along with you. Though you probably would like nothing more than to see him recover alongside you, we promise you can get better whether he chooses to take that step with you or not. You can grow, overcome, and regain (or in some cases, find for the first time) your confidence and self-worth. Your recovery and growth is your own, no matter who you live with.

  

We are living proof that marriages, however broken, have the ability to heal if both partners are truly committed and willing to do what is necessary. Beyond the darkest lows in your marriage there lies the potential for the greatest highs. Investing in yourself is the best thing you can do for your marriage. Find a good counselor or therapist. Expand your support system. Surround yourself with friends and others who understand. You are enough just as you are. You are valued. You are worth it. 

 

If you have some hope that professional help could make a real difference in helping you heal, and in mending your marriage relationship, use the contact us form to set up a time when we can talk.