dear sharideth #14: this one is about porn

hold on to your butts.  it’s been kind of an unwritten rule that i don’t talk about sex issues here.

that’s about to change.

at least for today.  a question came up that i’ve been asked before and feel like i should probably tackle it.  it concerns porn.

nothing like jumping into the deep end of the pool…here’s the question:

What are your thoughts on married men secretly watching porn and lying about it when confronted?

such a short question…such a huge topic.  i’ve decided i have to break it down into two parts.  an issue like this needs to be approached from her perspective and his perspective, because those are two very different things.

so first…wives.

the most important thing you need to understand about men and porn is that it doesn’t mean he doesn’t love you or no longer finds you attractive.  i know that can be hard to hold to, but you really have to understand that and internalize it. 

i have never met a married man who hasn’t admitted to being attracted to other women.  sometimes that results in viewing porn, sometimes it results in an affair.  for the rest, it simply means they notice and move on without compromising themselves.  but they all understand they have that particular weakness on some level.

this is not a slam on men.  it’s biology.  it’s how they choose to handle it that separates the men from the boys.

if you are wife facing this situation, here’s some suggestions to help you figure it out:

how do i approach him?

gently and without anger.  being hurt is perfectly acceptable.  but what you don’t want to do is put him on the defensive.  he’ll shut down and nothing will get accomplished.

the lying about it to you means he knows he’s done something wrong and is feeling guilty.  that’s not a bad place to start.  i would be much more concerned if he had a “yeah, so?” attitude about it.

how do i talk to him?

don’t beat around the bush about what you know.  men confront each other directly and get to the point with as few words as possible.  you’ll want to do this, too, when it comes to laying out what you know to be truth.  do it with a very matter-of-fact tone of voice.  no accusation.

explain to him how it’s making you feel.  let him know you’re afraid.  most men do not understand that porn, especially when it’s done in secret, is the single biggest blow (next to an affair) to a woman’s sense of security.  tell him that you don’t understand what his porn viewing means in terms of how he feels about you and that it frightens you.  you need to give very specific definitions of your feelings so he can know how to respond.  no man is going come through when he doesn’t know exactly what it is he’s done in terms of your emotions.

how do i resolve it?

ask him for respect.  he probably doesn’t see his porn use as a lack of respect for you.  he’s wrong about that.  he sees it as a secondary outlet.  you see it as being put second behind the illusion of porn.  anything that makes you feel as though you have to compete for his attention is disrespectful; especially within the confines of marriage.

again, that’s not a slam on men.  it’s a matter of perception.  in this particular case, there’s usually some pretty huge blinders.

give him an opportunity to respond.  keep your emotions as under control as possible and give him a safe place to be completely honest with you.  what he has to say might hurt, but a short term stab is much better than long term resentment.  if he apologizes, accept it.  sincerely.  then ask him what his plan is to fix the problem.

and it is perfectly acceptable to expect him to have one.

it could be as simple as putting blocks on the computer or allowing you access to his history.  or it might require counseling.  with the blessing of my husband, who i talked to a lot about this before writing it, i’m going to throw the bullshit flag on the majority “porn addiction” diagnoses.  weakness of character is not addiction.  though that has become an easy out in recent days.

whatever the remedy is for him, be supportive and partner with him as much as is appropriate.  and brace yourself if part of that includes needing more physical affection from you.

whoa, deep breath.  that last sentence does not mean you are to blame for his porn use.  i know you.  your mind is going to want to jump straight to that conclusion.  stop it.  a grown man’s choices are his and his alone to take responsibility for.  not yours.  but if he does let you know he needs more from you, be ready to respond positively.  he’s not after just an extra piece of ass.  men gain their own sense of security in a relationship through sex.  yeah, read that again.  it’s where he gets his validation and affirmation as the man you chose.  it’s also how he’s going to know you forgive him.

i’m going to have to address the guys tomorrow because this cannot be contained in a single blog.

men, husbands, lend me your ears or eyes, as the case may be.  can i ask you to be honest here and let the wives know what this issue looks like for you?  anything i missed?  anything i’m wrong about?  anything you think i should have put in bold font?

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27 comments on “dear sharideth #14: this one is about porn

  1. Funeralfun says:

    Well, you echoed my sentiments exactly. I have given the same advice to many a woman that thought their marriage was DOOMED because their husband snuck a peek. Dumb. In fact, one wife was in such turmoil that she told her church group, who called it severe “addiction” and “controlled by Satan,” and she holds him captive with her words every day of their lives. A walk through a shopping center has turned to accusatory comments from her, “You like THAT, don’t you?!” as a woman passes by in a short skirt or revealing top. He’s in a prison.

    LADIES…take heart. It’s not YOU. Guys think about sex A LOT and we should take that as an opportunity to be the sex kittens they need at home – so they won’t be sidetracked by the lure of boobies on the internet. (And to echo Sharideth, NOT your fault that he’s looking!!!)

    • for those of you reading the above comment and thinking Funeralfun and i should be BFFs…

      too late.

      we’ve known each other since she was 5 and i was 7. boom!

    • bethany says:

      “we should take that as an opportunity to be the sex kittens they need”? I have sincere issues with that terminology. Satisfying your husband sexually is one thing. Making yourself a “sex kitten” is totally different. Maybe I would feel better if I knew exactly what that meant for you. Because for me, that is nothing but negative, fake, and cheap. Please explain.

  2. JBen says:

    My fiance confronted me about this earlier in the month and I didn’t lie about it. But it was really hard for her to hear. Basically she gave me an ultimatum involving counseling and inescapable accountability or she was gone.

    The reason it worked was that she made me see that I couldn’t have both the porn and her. It is something I never thought about before. I thought I could just get away with it. But when actually presented with the choice, it wasn’t hard to make the right one.

    I was totally going to “ask sharideth” this question to you.

    There is much more to the story than I can fit into one comment. Thanks for addressing this.

  3. I think you’re absolutely right when you say ‘weakness of character is not addiction’. Actually, I think you’re right about anything I read in your blog. As a men, I don’t get the whole girly part, but sure, I believe you. I think men, especially when confronted, know this weakness of character all too well. Men don’t watch porn when they feel at their best, neither does it help them to get them feel at their best. It’s like any other bad habit: it’s something you go for because for some weird reason you feel like doing something destructive. No man feels like a real man after porn, that’s the realization that helped me of it. I’m not saying I never watch porn again, I’m saying the days I do are the days I’m not thriving in other areas as well. How ’bout that for honesty.

  4. One of my candidates for bold-font: adding in the rest of the being attracted to other women section: “sometimes that results in viewing porn, sometimes it results in an affair. for the rest, it simply means they notice and move on without compromising themselves.” Temptation isn’t a sin. Hebrews 4:15 tells us that Jesus experienced temptation, but did not sin. It’s how we handle the temptation that determines whether we sin or not.

    I’ll add another thought. Most porn for men pictures guys as powerful, competent, and in charge. Sometimes the attraction can be not so much the sexual stimulation, as one of those feelings. When human beings escape into fantasy worlds, whatever they are, we’re often attracted to things we don’t think we have in the real one. And there’s a good chance, if it is some feeling of inadequacy in an area, guys haven’t thought that out. Thinking it out would require confronting it. If you can gently lead them into thinking about the why of it, the what attracts them to it, then there’s a chance the why can be solved, as Sharideth indicated.

    Next thought, and I’m going to try to tread delicately here. There is a difference between “needing more physical affection” as Sharideth right notes can happen, and needing you to get into something really weird that the girl on screen does that you won’t. Positions and such can be harmless preferences, and no two people necessarily match in every preference (squeezing the toothpaste tube from the top or bottom, for instance). But when someone’s desires involve treating someone during sex in a way that’s harmful to them physically or emotionally, there’s something broken inside that needs to be examined and dealt with, and may require godly professional help in some cases. Because love shouldn’t want to hurt the person loved, and if someone needs to hurt or degrade someone else to feel secure, they’ve got an emotional issue to deal with. Or needs to be hurt, on the reverse. A key question needs to be why they are feeling a desire to do that.

    Last thought: Needs that you feed become hungrier, not more satisfied, when you feed them with the wrong thing. Whatever you rely on to make you feel better in any area, other than God, will always become inadequate at some point.

    For those looking for software to help with the internet accountability side of things, I’ve heard some very good things about an accountability package called CovenantEyes. You give it an accountability partner’s email address and it sends them a complete list of everywhere you’ve been, with suspicious traffic highlighted, at regular intervals.

  5. Sara no "H" says:

    My husband and I watch porn together and we love it. Snap. Problem solved in our relationship. 🙂

  6. I dare not share says:

    Porn doesn’t bother me. My ex loved porn. We had an agreement. If he was horny, he had to approach me for sex first and if I turned him down I didn’t care if he took care of himself with some visual assistance. There were many nights, while I lived on newborn induced complete lack of sleep that I’d happily say, “babe, enjoy the computer.” Occasionally we would watch it together. He also almost always watched real lady porn. Not the crap with ladies with giant fake boobs.

    I was never jealous or insecure about it. If he had been watching porn in some sneaky behind my back way, I think it definitely would have bothered me. Or if he never wanted to have sex with me, but that was not a problem. I’m not a christian so I really don’t know if there is something biblical prohibiting it, but I’m not going to judge anyone else’s view on it. I also think if I lacked confidence and didn’t like myself I probably wouldn’t be so OK with it.

  7. Jason Wert says:

    I had a raging addiction to pornography and it contributed heavily to the breakdown of my first marriage.

    Your assertion that a man turning to porn is just a “weakness of character” is really ill-informed and dangerous. While I would say that it does involve a weakness of character it’s not the only contributing factor to the situation. To try and claim that the majority of claims of addition are “bullshit” just adds fuel to the people who make themselves feel superior by looking down on men (and women) who struggle with pornography and dealing with it in their lives.

    When I was a teenager, I was an outcast in my school. A friend introduced me to pornography at 15 and I was hooked immediately on the things that I was watching. It was women who were willing, accepting and didn’t say no. They were women who enjoyed having sex and wanted it as much as men wanted to have it. Basically, the “ideal” to a teenage boy who wasn’t popular enough for a girl to go out with if she didn’t want to be teased about it. Porn dug in and dug in deeply.

    As I grew older, the addition continued and grew heavier. When I had struggles, pain, felt dismissed or rejected by people, the girls of porn were there to give me a few minutes of escape and pleasure from the chemicals in the brain that viewing pornography can release. It’s similar to what happens in cases of drug addiction. When I would date women, even if I really loved them and wanted to be with them, many times they would reject intimacy for various reasons and in those cases you can’t just turn off the urges within you. Porn provided a “safe” and “easy” outlet for those feelings that the woman I was with wouldn’t fulfill.

    Even after I came to Christ in my 20s, I kept the addiction. Why? No one talked about it. The position of churches I attended was that it was just a “weakness of character” and that any real man would just step up and resist the urges. I knew that was easy to say but when you have spent literally years running to porn to fulfill something that was not filled other places it’s not as easy as saying “this is wrong, I need to stop.” If that’s the case, we wouldn’t have any fat people in the world because no one would be seeking comfort food or eating when they’re stressed.

    It took me over two years with a psychiatrist to work through my addiction and put it in the rear view mirror. It wasn’t something that putting a block on the computer or having an accountability partner pray for you solves quickly.

    I’m sorry if this seems aggressive but I grow very tired of Christians who want to perpetuate the myth that “porn addiction” isn’t a very real problem. Sure, some guys will just use it as an excuse BUT YOU CAN HAVE THAT WITH A LOT OF THINGS. You can have guys who get drunk now and then say they they’re alcoholics when they’re not but I’ll bet you won’t be on here saying alcoholism isn’t an addiction and just a “weakness of character.” As long as the impression keeps being created in the Christian world that it’s just something a guy can stop any time and that’s all we’re dealing with there will be a lot of men who will never be helped break free from this addiction.

    • first of all, i have enormous respect for anyone who can be as transparent as you have been and tell a story as painful as yours with a result that is positive if hard won. seriously.

      i also want to clarify that i fully believe porn can be a terrible and very real addiction.

      what i call bullshit on is those who would put themselves in the same category as you when they are not addicted. it’s an easy out for some men to take. they play the “i can’t help it” card to get out of trouble. they have no right to claim the kind of history and pain that porn caused you. it diminishes understanding and compassion that was already limited to begin with.

      and you’re right. Christian’s get it wrong in a lot of ways when it comes to anything having to do with sex and porn specifically. the go-to reaction is condemnation when sin gets into uncomfortable territory. something i speak against regularly. the faith i know is about grace and healing not finger pointing and trapping people under a glass dome of sin.

      i appreciate your comments and you are welcome to set me straight anytime you like. your brand of aggression is welcome here.

    • Chris says:

      I’m glad someone wrote this.

      There is a website called yourbrainonporn .com that has a number of revealing articles on how the brain can trap itself with its own responses. Some of that information may be helpful as well. When the cycle becomes visible, it may be easier to recognize what the real problems are.

      It might also help to first discover, and then remember, what we’re throwing away when we run to porn. Is porn really delivering what we really want or need? In the end, it is what it always is: cold, two dimensional, and lonely. What we really want is: warm, four dimensional, and intimate. I say four dimensional, because time (and therefore faithfulness) is important to men too. 🙂

    • You touch on a lot of really big things here. I wanted to carry on one of them I sorta nibbled around the edges of but didn’t directly say.

      Anything that has control of you, whether it’s porn, drugs, promiscuity, food, alcohol, cutting, anger issues, or even workaholism….for the most part, you can’t truly escape it solely by just stopping. Stopping is important. But to achieve lasting freedom, you have to identify the underlying need you’re filling and find a non-negative replacement for that need. As long as the need is unfilled, you’ve got a weak spot still.

      Jesus in Luke 11:24-26 described a demon being cast out of a man, and coming back later to find the man cleaned out but empty, and moving right back in with friends. I think this can apply to addictions as well. You want to fill the spot inside you where that addiction had set up residence with something good instead, so when it comes knocking again it finds its old residence inhabited and the ‘no vacancy’ sign lit.

  8. H.E. ELLIS says:

    I’m probably not the best person to comment here. I’m a woman who is blessed/cursed with a man’s libido, so I probably watch more porn than they do. I completely understand why they do it.

    I’ve got to say, for someone who doesn’t handle “sex” stuff on your blog, I thought this post was handled with great dignity and without moral judgment. Nicely done.

  9. Ernie says:

    If I could say one thing to the wives that have been crushed by their husband’s porn addiction, it would be that your husband really can be free this stuff. And I’m talking about true and lasting freedom…not some wimpy freedom that lasts a couple weeks or even a couple years. It doesn’t have to control or define him anymore.

    I say this because there’s a lie out there that says men have to struggle with this their entire life. Don’t believe that for a second. I’ve walked this path along with dozens of other men that I know, and we are completely different men and husbands than we used to be.

    God completely changed us from the inside out, and He desires to do the same for your husband.

  10. Larry Hehn says:

    I was very glad to see that you used the word “affirmation” because that is the key. As some other commenters have noted, the allure of porn or an affair is just as much about affirmation as it is about sex. For a great perspective on how men are wired, I recommend reading “For Women Only” by Shaunti Feldhahn.

    Also, I agree with Jason that porn or even destructive relationships can be an addiction. Been there, done that. Not fun. For some really amazing insight into addiction and how it ties with spirituality, I recommend “Addiction and Grace” by Gerald May.

  11. xea says:

    I went to a great seminar about addiction and change called the Genesis Process. He clarified on the question of whether addiction is a Sin or a Disease.
    http://www.genesisprocess.org/

  12. […] How to Confront Your Man about Using Pornography by Sharideth Smith […]

  13. […] How to Confront Your Man about Using Pornography by Sharideth Smith […]

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