Q&A: Husband’s Porn Problem

I have been married 7 1/2 years. My husband and I were married in the temple, both of us coming from strong LDS families/backgrounds. About a year into our marriage my husband confided in me that he was struggling with his faith and did not necessarily believe in God anymore. I honestly thought at this time he would “work it out.” He talked briefly with our bishop about his lack of faith, but we moved from the ward and he just kind of took a back seat approach to church—attending just to keep the peace between us.

Shortly after we had our second baby, I accidentally stumbled across some web searches my husband had done looking for porn sites. I confronted him and at first he tried to lie his way out of it, but when pressed, he finally admitted he had been looking at porn and engaging in masturbation. He promised me at that time that he hadn’t looked at porn for a month, and he didn’t want to continue looking at it. I believed him. Right before our 3rd child was born, I again stumbled across some web searches for porn sites. Again I confronted my husband and found that he had not stopped looking at porn, but instead had just gotten better at covering his tracks. He told me this time that since he no longer believes in God, he does not see viewing pornographic material as bad or immoral. I told him that it’s was very hurtful to me—I feel like he has committed an act of infidelity, not to mention the fact that he lied to me. He said he didn’t want to hurt me, and so he would really try hard to stop looking at porn. Again, I believed him. It’s been a year and a half since our 3rd child was born. I just again found proof that he is still looking at porn—obviously he has an addiction problem.

I’m just wondering, what can I expect of my husband in this situation? If he doesn’t feel that it’s morally wrong, are we at an impasse? I feel cheated, hurt, angry—especially because I think his internet viewing has crossed the threshold into adult chat rooms. Despite this weakness of his, I’m still head over heels in love with my husband. We have a pretty good marriage. He is a fantastic father to our 3 children who all adore him. Can I expect my husband to uphold the same moral code that he had when we got married, even though his views on God have changed? Am I wrong to feel like his viewing pornography is a form of infidelity? I want nothing more than for him to return to the gospel. How can I help him get on that path when he seems wholly uninterested and perhaps even opposed to that idea? This whole ordeal has been a huge faith-shaker to me, and although I’m struggling, I’m hoping to come out on the other side with a more sure knowledge of the gospel. I have not spoken to anyone about my husband’s problem with porn (our families know a little about his struggle with his faith). I do not want to sweep this problem under the rug anymore. I guess I just want some affirmation that I’m not over-reacting and that his actions are indeed detrimental to our marriage, even if he feels otherwise.

ANSWER

Although I will elaborate below, I think it comes down to this:

1-Whether or not your husband believes in God, pornography is destructive to him and to everyone who loves him.
2-You can expect your husband to be honest. You can expect to be faithful (i.e. NOT participate in adult chat rooms). You can also expect him to acknowledge the damage that pornography is doing to you and your family, even if he denies that if is also damaging him.
3-You can’t change him but you can create and maintain healthy boundaries. You are the one who determines what those boundaries are.

The debate is raging, but although there are people who call pornography a “victimless crime,” the fact is that there are no victimless crimes. I don’t expect that your husband will be open to it, but you could find both religious and non-religious material online that discusses the harm done by pornography.

I have spoken to dozens of women whose husbands are addicted to pornography. Again and again, I have heard them say—and their husbands have backed this up—that they know when their husbands are involved. And though I certainly don’t discount the spiritual promptings that may be occurring, the wives report that they know because their husbands act differently. Sometimes it’s hard for the wives to describe what’s different but, over the years, what I hear from them can be summarized this way—their husbands go cold. Exposure to degrading materials feeds lust and extinguishes natural warmth and affection. After all, the commandments are not arbitrary hoops for us to jump through; they are given to help us—if we are obedient—to avoid the worst dangers of life. Whether or not your husband believes in God, he is exposing himself, and his family, to the huge costs of involvement with this plague.

Of course, it’s not unlikely that at least part of your husband’s loss of faith is a direct result of his inability to turn away from pornography. Sadly, no matter how much you want him to regain his faith, he has to want it, too. Review D&C Section 121:41-43:

No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned;
By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile—
Reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy;

A few other comments:

You may feel that you are “head over heels” in love with your husband but there’s a disconnect in there somewhere. He lies, he disregards your feelings, he’s turned away from the faith you shared, he’s broken his covenants, and he’s involved in sex-talk with other women online. I’m sure he’s got good parts, but he is bringing the telestial realm into your marriage and family. I understand continuing to care about the people close to us but, at some point, sin destroys married love.

Only you can decide how and when to draw the boundaries you want to draw. And then you have to think ahead to what you are willing to do to back up those boundaries. Fasting and prayer are called for in such tough considerations. You may benefit from consulting with priesthood leaders and a professional counselor (choose a good one). Personally, I would draw the first line at the adult chat rooms. I think I would also install a guardian program (they can be downloaded from the internet) on all family computers. You have 3 kids in the home. They are vulnerable and should be protected. He has rights over his laptop but you could ask him to use it outside the home or alone in a room away from the family (which is probably what he’s doing anyway—but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t say it).

You are NOT overreacting and his actions ARE harmful to your marriage and your family. Viewing porn is definitely a form of infidelity.

Finally, Heavenly Father knows what you are dealing with and wants you to be safe and happy. He does NOT want you to be stuck in a situation in which you and your children are being victimized. Life can be so painful sometimes but there is infinite power in the Atonement of Jesus Christ—power to help you find safety and peace, power to heal your wounds.

God bless you.

  1. Pops says:

    I’ve been off learning about how self-betrayal leads to self-deception in Terry Warner’s book Bonds That Make Us Free – I highly recommend it. It’s pretty frightening how a person can literally lose the light they once had.

    I also think recovering from pornography addiction must be quite difficult in our society – imagine being a recovering alcoholic, and having to deal with varying amounts of alcohol in practically everything that’s available to drink.

  2. Major thankies for the blog. Fantastic.

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