Pornography is a deeply painful reality. In my experience as a Christian counselor, I have rarely seen a phenomenon that is as destructive to the life of an individual or a marriage as pornography. I have heard countless stories from men describing the immense misery, shame and guilt that their pornography use results in. These men generally know how destructive pornography viewing is. Yet they often struggle to put a stop to such patterns, especially when they reach the level of a pornography addiction.
It is also difficult to describe the utter betrayal the spouse of a pornography viewer feels. I often hear these spouses speak of wrestling with deep hurt, and with insecurity about their own value and worth, when their partner’s pornography use is disclosed or discovered. They cannot understand how and why their partner would betray the sacred sexuality of their marriage.
Feeling Miles Apart
When married couples find themselves in these positions, they often don’t know how to effectively resolve the pain that each member is experiencing, or how to work toward mending the wide emotional breach created by the pornography use. They feel unable to restore this bond and this contributes to increased emotional pain and anxiety. They also experience painful negative cycles in which the spouses find it difficult to express their underlying emotions and their attachment needs. (Johnson, Makinen & Millikin, 2001)
Restoring the Emotional Bond
Nevertheless, there is a process by which married couples can begin to restore their emotional bond. This process begins when spouses are willing to recognize and pay attention to the hurt each member is experiencing. When each spouse can sense that they are cared for, and that what they are going through is carefully listened to and understood, the couple can begin to make healthy inroads toward effectively restoring their emotional bond.
This becomes possible when the responses that are offered help to create the necessary safety in the marriage. The spouses need to feel safe in order to present their underlying needs and concerns to each other. Each spouse needs to know that the vulnerable issues at play in their heart are going to be valued, cared for and understood. When they are able to experience this level of safety, and feel supported and cared for when they communicate about these important matters, they are able to reduce the anxiety that can lead to the painful negative cycles. This increases their chances for true emotional connection.
Actions are Necessary
Pornography is emotionally damaging to both spouses and, while healing is possible, it is far from easy. I have worked with many married couples who have every intention of mending their broken bond. However, the way they respond to each other makes doing so seem nearly impossible. In the end, healing effectively comes down to a combination of both words and actions.
We often find that what the betrayed spouse seeks is concrete action. It is not enough for their partner to reassure them that they will stop their pornography use, but they need to see their partner take the necessary steps to make sure that such usage ceases. These steps often include attending a twelve-step-based recovery program for sex addicts or a support group for men, proactively engaging their partner’s hurt and needs by affectionately listening to them and validating them, participating in individual and marriage counseling to help them heal from the damage caused by pornography use, and so on. For many betrayed spouses, steps such as these are necessary in order to be able to heal and trust their spouse again.
In addition to this, the spouse whose use of pornography was disclosed or discovered needs to see their partner respond in a way that shows them that it is safe to deal with this issue in their marriage. Most individual pornography users I have worked with recognize the hurt they have caused their spouse. However, they also need their own hurt, guilt and shame to be validated and understood by their significant other if they are to move forward in the healing process. If they are only met with harsh criticisms or judgments, the mending process quickly breaks down.
Christian Counseling Can Help You to Restore the Marital Bond
Pornography is a pervasive part of American culture that undoubtedly destroys the central foundation of a marriage. As a Christian counselor who understands the dangers of pornography and is trained in helping couples to rebuild a healthy emotional bond in their marriage, I look forward to joining with you in reclaiming your marriage and seeing it break free of the bonds of pornography.
Johnson, S. M., Makinen, J. A., & Millikin, J. W. (2001). Attachment injuries in couple relationships: A new perspective on impasses in couples therapy. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 27(2), 145-155.
Photos are the sole property of Eric Gomez, MS, LMFT, MHP.