Have Porn Addiction Problems Wrecked Your Marriage?

28,258 sessions of pornography are viewed every single second online. Let’s compare that shockingly vast number to the 6,200 couples married each day in the U.S. It doesn’t take many math skills to compare those two statistics and conclude that the number of our marriages impacted by this epidemic of porn addiction problems is quite large.

If you are one of the spouses betrayed by secret porn usage in your marriage, my heart goes out to you deeply. We hope the information you find here is heartfelt, helpful, and healing as you brave the difficult journey ahead.

Porn addiction problems create chaos for both spouses | The Dating Divas
Wife sits guarded in bed with a contempt-filled gaze upon her porn-addicted spouse.

The Beginning of Healing for the Spouse of a Porn Addict

If you read my first article “Navigating Your Spouse’s Porn Addiction,” I hope you already know this is a safe place. As I picture you and I sitting together, I wish I could just gather your heartbreak in my hands and take it from you. But tattered trust and foggy feelings still leave you desperately reaching for help. Things in your marriage – and even your own identity – may feel different in an otherworldly, disorienting way.

With all that’s in me, I want you to once again gaze upon those wedding photos hanging on your walls with an overflowing fondness. Yet, there is a looming chasm between the broken story you hold today and the beautiful love-filled story you want to hold tomorrow. The bridge you need to cross this great abyss is constructed of a lengthy, gruesome rebuilding process. Today, we hope to answer questions about this process that others may have shied away from. Your healing is WELL worth it.

Porn addiction kills love and true intimacy | The Dating Divas
A couple sits on the couch, struggling through their pain after porn addiction.

Porn Addiction Recovery Tips From An Expert

Due to the immense care we desire to give this heavy topic, we had the great honor of inviting in an expert. This knowledgeable, empathetic professional has been in the trenches each day working with women and betrayed spouses just like you for half a decade. Not to mention, she is a wife who experienced the impacts of porn addiction problems in her own marriage when she discovered her husband’s secret early into their honeymoon nearly 15 years ago. {Listen to more of her story here.}

Evelyn James, Betrayal + Recovery Coach, has a perspective of addiction recovery that we find to be a refreshing, realistic, and very health-filled approach compared to other online strategies for marriages struggling through this difficult, destructive porn issue. In addition, she was incredibly generous with her time answering countless questions we passed along from readers just like you that have landed in our D.M.s over the years. We can’t wait to share her insights with you!

Table of Contents
  1. Have Porn Addiction Problems Wrecked Your Marriage?
  2. The Beginning of Healing for the Spouse of a Porn Addict
  3. Porn Addiction Recovery Tips From An Expert
  4. How Their Porn Addiction Symptoms Affected You
    1. Battling Betrayal Trauma From Your Beloved
  5. Navigating Porn Addiction Recovery Without Your Enablement
    1. The Difference Between Guilt and Shame
  6. Finding Your Role Without the Codependency
  7. How Rebuilding Your Confidence Impacts Porn Addiction Help
  8. What True Addiction Recovery Should Look Like
  9. What Trust Looks Like in Porn Addiction Recovery
  10. Relearning Healthy Intimacy After A Porn Addiction
  11. Tips For Finding The Best Fit in a Therapist
  12. Your Marriage After Porn Addiction
  13. How To Work With Evelyn
  14. Resources for Porn Addiction Recovery Help

How Their Porn Addiction Symptoms Affected You

There are countless reasons why The Dating Divas take a strong stance against porn use in marriage because of its many negative impacts. For example, did you know that porn use in marriage has been shown to reduce confidence in BOTH partners even if one spouse is completely unaware the other is consuming it? Porn addiction effects like this leave undeniably difficult consequences on marriages daily.

For both male and female porn consumers, their habit is often accompanied by problems with anxiety and depression, poor body image, low self image and self esteem, insecurities, relationship issues and dissatisfaction. Often addicts also exhibit abusive behaviours, from physical to psychological and emotional abuse and more, further feeding into the damage their spouse faces and adding to their feelings of being unworthy, unloved and used.

– Evelyn James, Betrayal + Recovery Coach

Porn addiction symptoms are sneakily harmful to both the consumer and their affected spouse. What’s more, these negative symptoms impacting the brain, body, quality of life, and quality of relationships are often very long-term and long-lasting.

Battling Betrayal Trauma From Your Beloved

Unquestionably, deep painful wounds were formed when you first discovered your partner’s struggle with porn.

70 percent of wives fit the criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder, often manifesting symptoms of fear, depression, anxiety, obsessive thinking, insomnia, hyper-vigilance, and nightmares.

– Matt Frad, The Porn Myth 

This is called betrayal trauma. Evelyn defines this concept with her clients like this:

“Betrayal trauma is our deep lasting pain and emotional distress from broken trust and/or a violation of our intimate relationships. It can come from spouses, parents, loved ones or even institutions, but the effects can be long lasting and varied.”

– Evelyn James, Betrayal + Recovery Coach

The emotional distress of betrayal is overwhelming and at times, can even feel debilitating. Therefore, it’s important to recognize the signs in yourself to begin to overcome them during the healing process.

Signs of betrayal trauma often vary but may include:

  1. Intrusive thoughts or mental images
  2. Nightmares or flashbacks 
  3. Avoidance behaviors 
  4. Hyper-vigilance {constantly scanning your environment for potential threats}
  5. Irritability or angry outbursts
  6. Insomnia due to anxiety
  7. Frequent fearfulness  
  8. Social withdrawal or depressive behavior  
  9. Feeling emotionally numb
  10. Physical symptoms: tension headaches, fatigue, digestion disruption, etc.

If you relate to these common symptoms of Betrayal Trauma, please be encouraged that there truly is hope. You will not feel like this forever.

While the steps in the rest of this article can help you begin to heal, here are a few specific bonus tips from Rachel Larson; LMHC, CAMS:

  • Practice mindfulness & grounding exercises
  • Take care of your body & health
  • Build 5 healthy & close relationships
  • Tell your story {or journal it!}
  • Find a passion {or rediscover an old one!}
  • Commit to personal growth {keep reading!😉}
Betrayal trauma is common in marriages affected by porn addiction | The Dating Divas
A wife points angrily at her husband’s device after discovering symptoms of porn addiction.

Navigating Porn Addiction Recovery Without Your Enablement

When hard things happen in life, our first tendency is often to immediately grasp for full and unwavering control. It makes sense that this may be your strategy because you’ve likely felt so OUT of control throughout this process. Wives and betrayed spouses often share that they’ve gone through seasons – often feeling responsible for preventing relapse. However, finding and adhering to sincere porn addiction help falls under the addict’s list of responsibilities.

Enablement looks different in different situations and with different people, and it’s often hard to see it in ourselves. At its core, enablement behaviours come from a place of wanting to control. We long for safety and recovery so we begin to force it, control it and police their {our partner’s} actions.

– Evelyn James, Betrayal + Recovery coach

Your spouse may have kept you in the dark, lied to you, gaslit you, etc. Because of that common deceitful track record, your desire to regain control feels natural. However, managing an addict’s healing does not lead to true transformation in their life. While asking for updates can be a healthy behavior for disclosure and accountability in marriage, it is also essential that the addict becomes the captain of their own rehabilitation. Taking full, unabridged ownership of their wrong actions is crucial to their porn addiction recovery.

“An example of enabling/control might be taking their phone, deleting all the bad apps, and changing all the passcodes without their knowledge or agreement.

As an alternative solution, you could ask him to change his phone, delete bad apps or download accountability software, and then allow him to follow through and make his own choices.”

– Evelyn James, Betrayal + Trauma Coach

Your spouse needs to find a deep reason for battling against this addiction and all the unhealthy coping patterns that led to it on their own. And for the addict to find true, lasting success, that reason needs to be about more than your marriage.

The Difference Between Guilt and Shame

“A common way spouses enable is by taking away consequences for the addict. It allows the addict to continue their unhealthy choices without having to face the consequences, weight and pain of their choices.”

– Evelyn James, Betrayal + Recovery Coach

In our last post, “Navigating Your Spouse’s Porn Addiction,” we chatted briefly about the connection between shame and addiction. The cycle of shame reaffirms addictive patterns. However, we mentioned that as a spouse {and when safe}, you do have the unique ability and position to encourage your spouse in their healing journey.

However, in the context of THIS post, we want also to note the importance of keeping consequences intact and allowing your spouse to feel the total weight of their own guilt when unacceptable behavior occurs.

Very Well Mind provides a few great examples for deciphering guilt vs. shame:

  • Guilt is a feeling you get when you did something wrong or perceived you did something wrong.”
  • Shame is a feeling that your whole self is wrong, and it may not be related to a specific behavior or event.”

This article goes on to point out that guilt is productive while shame is the opposite:

When you feel guilty about the wrong thing you did, you can take steps to make up for it and put it behind you. But feeling shame, or being convinced that you are the thing that’s wrong, offers no clear-cut way to “come back” to feeling more positive about yourself.

Kristalyn Salters-Pedneault, PhD

Watching your spouse sit in the discomfort of their wrongful actions is uncomfortable. However, be mindful that relieving this guilt prematurely would do them a great disservice.

Finding Your Role Without the Codependency

You may be thinking, “what in the world is codependency and what does it have to do with my healing?” In an article outlining 10 signs of codependency, Pure Desire Ministries’ Betrayal & Beyond study states that 85% of women married to addicts may deal with some level of codependency post-addiction discovery.

Designed within us is the passion to care deeply for others. The situation quickly becomes unhealthy when that level of care causes us to neglect ourselves or others around us. Oftentimes we will simply make the excuse that we’re only trying to help. But if we’re honest, we can identify areas of our lives that are being left unattended in an effort to help our spouse break free from the addictive cycle.

– Kayla Sullivan, writer for the conquer series

We recommend beginning some work in this area if you feel you may identify. A few great places to start include finding a group for betrayed wives, scheduling a call with our expert Evelyn, or reading “Codependency No More” by Melody Beattie.

The only person you can now or ever change is yourself. The only person that it is your business to control is yourself.

Melody Beattie, best-selling author

The pain of porn discovery in your marriage and the lengthy recovery process often leads betrayed spouses into behaviors that leave no room for their own soul-care. Be sure to surround yourself with a community that can help build you up when you do not have the strength to do so on your own.

Work on YOU, friend. You’re worth it.

How Rebuilding Your Confidence Impacts Porn Addiction Help

One of the most common struggles women bring Evelyn as she coaches them through betrayal recovery includes difficulty with anxiety and confidence. Porn addiction effects often include a massive hit to confidence; however, many of us {especially women}, do not always begin with healthy levels of confidence due to societal or religious influence.

What would you say if someone asked you what you need to heal? Do you know? What do you need to feel safe in this relationship? What do you need to overcome living in fear of what your spouse may be doing, watching, or thinking about? Growing past codependency and into healthy confidence will allow you to better identify these needs and then enforce them productively.

The best tool that I found when facing the recovery journey with my spouse was my own confidence because it allowed me to take a giant step back from his recovery. I no longer held onto the control or the blame, I refused to take responsibility for what was not my fault or my burden to carry and learned to not believe his issues and addiction reflected back on something that was wrong with me.

– Evelyn James, Betrayal + Recovery Coach

Evelyn asks her clients to ponder these four powerful questions internally:

  1. Who am I? {Dig deep beyond the surface level!}
  2. Who do others say I am? {Good and bad.}
  3. Who do I want to become?
  4. Who do I NOT want to be anymore?

Finding your answers to these questions are huge steps towards your own healing, empowerment, and growth beyond this really difficult circumstance in your marriage. Feeling confident in these answers will also allow you to tackle the next segment of your healing journey with more trust in yourself to accept nothing less than full and forthcoming recovery behaviors from your spouse.

What True Addiction Recovery Should Look Like

Did you know that there is a 50% – 60% better success rate for addicts who read their Bible multiple times a week? This is because the ROOT issue of addiction must be addressed, and new habits must take the place of the addiction. This further impresses that proper porn addiction recovery involves more than simply stopping the bad behavior. The matter is not, “how to stop porn addiction” but rather, “how can the user truly heal from the inside out”.

For addicts who are getting help only because they’ve been caught or because they “have to” but don’t want to, it can be hard to see through the empty actions. Oftentimes they become what I like to call “shiny on the outside” but are holding firm to the addictive beliefs, patterns and choices they always have. They are likely white knuckling their way through recovery, barely holding on, and unexpected stresses or life events can knock them back into the addictive spiral. 

– Evelyn James, Betrayal + Recovery Coach

Cheap transformation is unfair to you, your spouse, and your marriage. Instead, both of you deserve to step into healing in your own timing and through your own choice. After all, just as porn usage impacts all areas of life, its healing also involves countless layers before the root cause is discovered.

Porn addiction is a symptom of deeper issues. When your spouse begins to heal, they will also show deep transformation in their character and beyond.

When an addict is doing the work and trying to find restoration and recovery, they will show evidence of the heart change going on inside. They will demonstrate a commitment to changing what’s been hurting their spouse, they take responsibility for the damage and ownership of the work that is needed because of it.

Most importantly, they commit to complete honesty and transparency in all areas of their life.

– Evelyn James, Betrayal + Recovery Coach

Many women and betrayed spouses often comment that they began to see drastic changes from their spouse during recovery in other unrelated areas. For example, more involvement around the house, more positive mood shifts, more fun connection with their kids, more initiative with chores, etc. This further impresses that porn addiction affects impact quality of life and relationships. And true recovery also involves beautiful healing in those areas.

What Trust Looks Like in Porn Addiction Recovery

We often wonder how to stop porn addiction, and then the help ends there. However, the journey to healing extends beyond the simple halt of bad behavior. As a betrayed spouse, I’m sure you feel the weight of what is needed to move forward. Much of your journey ahead for the next few years will likely involve a lot of communication, honesty, transparency, forgiveness, and the rebuilding of trust.

Consistency is a huge indicator. I often tell those who are unsure if they can begin to rebuild trust to take a step back and watch. What happens if you don’t remind or encourage the behaviours and actions of recovery? Does the addict continue {the healing work} on their own? Are they just as committed if you say nothing or are they taking action only when you ask or facilitate? This is the commitment and responsibility I’ve been mentioning and without it, it’s impossible to rebuild trust. 

– Evelyn James, Betrayal + Recovery Coach

It is our sincere desire that your journey also includes reconciliation, but it is essential that this be one of the later steps taken in a healthy recovery situation.

A commitment to change, evidence of change, true repentance, complete honesty, and transparency in all things are where trust begins. Trust takes years to rebuild once it’s broken, so be in it for the long haul, not just a quick fix. You don’t want quick change. It never lasts. True heart change and healing come slowly with hard work and effort. If you’re going to build something well, it’s going to take time. Eventually a full disclosure can also be really helpful in recovery to make sure there are no more secrets or skeletons left in the closet.

– Evelyn James, Betrayal + Recovery Coach

Trust is a prerequisite for intimacy, and intimacy is required to make sex more than simply a physical act. Each of these are building blocks that you can begin to work on one by one over the coming weeks, months, and years as your spouse is willing.

Relearning Healthy Intimacy After A Porn Addiction

Intimacy is a very misunderstood concept. The word “intimacy” is often used interchangeably with “sex,” which contributes to confusion surrounding the concept. We’ve also been guilty of this incorrect word exchange, so today, we’d like to take a moment to better define true, healthy intimacy in all its forms.

The five forms of intimacy are:

  1. Emotional Intimacy
  2. Intellectual Intimacy
  3. Experiential Intimacy
  4. Spiritual Intimacy
  5. Physical Intimacy

Not only is “sex” absent from this list, but you’ll also notice that it is considered just ONE part of the physical intimacy aspect. Relational intimacy is a much broader concept than it is given credit for.

“It’s important to remember that there are many different types of intimacy but at the root of each is love, connection, respect and trust. Healthy intimacy includes sexual, physical, emotional, conflict resolution, spiritual, creative, intellectual, spiritual, and experiential intimacies. Healthy intimacy should be about loving and serving the other person, not ourselves.

– Evelyn James, Betrayal + Recovery Coach

During the rebuilding process, a couple’s intimacy should primarily focus on emotional, intellectual, spiritual, experiential, and conflict resolution. When you and your spouse focus on building deeper foundations, meaningful connection, and are honoring each other’s feelings and safety, sex can come later as an overflow of love from each of these areas.

“If you choose to engage in sexual intimacy again, be aware of your feelings before, during, and after. Make sure you can say no or stop things at any time if you begin to feel triggered or upset and know that it could be an upsetting struggle if you’re not ready or still hurting.”

– Evelyn James, Betrayal + Recovery Coach

Sexual intimacy should not be happening without safety, trust, enthusiastic consent and an overflow of love and intimacy. When we are forcing sexual intimacy because we believe we “have to” or because “they might relapse without it”, we are ultimately being used and also feeding the selfish nature of their addiction.

Ultimately we will lead ourselves to feel more used, rejected and unloved by treating sexual/physical affection as an obligation and tool against relapse, and it won’t actually keep him from relapse in the end anyway…

– Evelyn James, Betrayal + Recovery Coach

Tips For Finding The Best Fit in a Therapist

Beginning the search for professional help in any capacity can feel daunting. Evelyn was so kind to share a few tips for those seeking a counselor, therapist, or coach fully equipped to deal with addiction and betrayal trauma.

I always recommend starting by asking about their view on pornography, masterbation, and abuse. If they don’t line up with you in these areas, they’re not likely to line up with what you’re trying to accomplish in therapy.” 

– Evelyn James, Betrayal + Recovery Coach

One of Evelyn’s first tips is to be honest during your introductory visit or call. Ask the hard questions and be open about your beliefs. You want to make sure you have the same goals and share the same foundational truths with the professionals you work with.

After her many years of work alongside couples amid this addiction and betrayal, Evelyn also shared an important observation we found noteworthy:

When considering counseling during betrayal and addiction, it can be most beneficial to do individual counseling to work on your own issues before beginning to focus on the issues in your marriage or doing couples therapy. I’ve seen couples therapy go sideways when it comes to helping an addict. Often it fuels the “shiny on the outside” behaviour of the addict without digging into the root issues and causing real change.

– Evelyn James, Betrayal + Recovery Coach

Your spouse’s addiction, wrong choices, and improper methods of dealing with their own difficult emotions are not your fault. However, in relationships, we do play a role in each situation. Understanding what your role is {or may have been} can be a great first step to healing and beginning the learning journey to healing.

Healing requires learning because you will need the knowledge to maintain healthy boundaries, avoid enablement tendencies, deconstruct codependent habits, and work through personal traumas from childhood to the present.

A spouse willing to do the work to heal from their porn addiction will take initiative | The Dating Divas
Spouse sits in group therapy pondering the consequences of their porn addiction.

Your Marriage After Porn Addiction

It’s important to remember that your healing, recovery and growth should not be dependent on his. For some married to a spouse who refuses to quit or chooses to lie, hide and continue the affairs or addiction, the betrayed may choose to end the relationship. Even in this situation, it’s necessary the betrayed continues to do the work to heal and repair themselves.

– Evelyn James, Betrayal + Recovery Coach

I’m not sure how long you’ve walked this journey. Perhaps it’s weeks or months, or maybe it’s been an ongoing battle for years. Depending on where you sit on this long path to recovery, it may be difficult to look ahead. You may even wonder if there’s anything good that lies ahead. Though the number of marriages devastated by porn use is shockingly high, you may be encouraged to know that the number of couples standing with you in recovery is also large. You are not alone.

If your spouse does the work and is living in restoration, it will likely still take 3-5 years to heal and repair your relationship to a better, healthier place. On the other side of recovery, your life can be better than when you started. Many couples post-recovery are grateful they walked this hard journey because of how it helped them heal and grow closer together.”

– Evelyn James, Betrayal + Recovery Coach

How To Work With Evelyn

Resources for Porn Addiction Recovery Help

Though information is readily available online, a large amount can communicate damaging ideas about sex, intimacy, addiction, and porn.

As someone who treasures my belief system, it is with sadness that I have to note:
Unfortunately, it is especially critical to be mindful when reading through religiously affiliated information regarding this complex topic.

With that said, there are many resources we trust below!
There are both secular AND Christian-based—all endorsed by our expert, Evelyn.

Mikayla

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