Alone and Isolated. Hurt and Betrayed. Lost. These are often feelings wives of a porn addict experience when they find their husband has been using pornography. You are not alone.

A trigger is what begins the process of addiction (see the diagram below, created by Juan Blea, MS, LDAC, CEP). Anxiety follows, and a compulsive behavior is often used to relieve the anxiety. If these behaviors are healthy – exercise, worship, service, etc. – the relief stays. If they are unhealthy – pornography, alcohol, drugs, etc. – relief turns to shame, which comes from the adverse impact unhealthy compulsions have on others. Because shame itself is a powerful trigger, the person becomes caught in an “addiction”.

Here is what this may mean for your husband. For many men, this cycle goes far back to their childhood:

“Dad was always yelling, and sometimes he would hit me, so the only way I knew how to relax was by looking at the pictures I got from my friend who stole them from his dad’s magazine.” This is important to understand – the connection between your 9-year-old-husband’s attempt to calm down and the natural curiosity young boys have about the female body – because it is the foundation of is life-long involvement with pornography.

This cycle usually repeats itself throughout childhood, and grows increasingly intense when your husband hits puberty – now he is starting to spend time with young women who are now beginning to resemble the women whom he had been looking at for years; some of them even begin showing interest in him, which his magazine pictures never did! While he does not give up pornography, it usually lessens as he is receiving a calming influence from his friends who are girls, and a little later, from a girlfriend. This is another important part to understand – he now can calm down with “other women” (i.e. girlfriends), as well as pornography, when faced with stress at home, school, etc. Additionally, for many men who come from families of faith, alcohol and / or drugs were socially not acceptable, but pornography was something that was rarely discussed, “so this must be okay.”

Enter adulthood: the young man has now grown up, stayed away from alcohol and drugs, finished high school, perhaps even collage, met and married you, shared several years of a pretty good relationship, and helped bring a handful of children to your family – all the while using his “addiction cycle” to maintain the calmness required to stick it out at school, work, etc. Something may have seemed a little off, but nothing you could point to – just that “he seemed a little distant most of the time when we were having sex.” Then it happened – you caught him. How could he do such a thing! Those women were fake anyway! No wonder he was distant all these years during sex! How could I ever compare with people who looked like that, fake or not!? All true. However, from his perspective, “My life was always pretty stressful, and I was doing the best I could, and I really do love my wife and children. But after she caught me, my wife just seemed to turn on me – I could never do anything right, and it became increasingly unpleasant to be home.” That could not be true, you think. If he really loved me, he would not do those things! He is lying!

This is where we come back to the 9-year-old version of your husband. How has he successfully been able to cope with an unpleasant home life growing up? Bingo! Pornography and other women. That moment of “you caught him” may have very well been a text chain from another woman; mounting deceit about where he was and what he had been doing; or a discovery of Facebook stalking an old girlfriend. The point is – and this may be hard to accept right now – his cycle of addiction started long before he even knew you (in most cases), and in actuality, it truly has nothing to do with you – it has everything to do with a destructive cycle that he has chosen to stick with / been caught in from early childhood.

What to do now?

In session, we will explore more deeply the connection between the truth that he really does love you; your feelings of diminished self-worth (and how that cycle of thinking can often be an unhealthy coping mechanism itself); and how the two can come together in a way that will help your husband break free from the cycle he is caught in and help you feel emotionally connected to a husband who can become honest and give you all of his affection.

Reach out today to begin this process.