The Marriage Podcast for Smart People

How And When To Tell Your Wife About Your Porn Addiction

Jan. 2, 2019

When I work with married guys who want to break their porn habit they generally fall into one of two categories. Either their wife already knows or else she has no idea at all. I don’t think I’ve ever worked with a husband whose wife knows but doesn’t care if he stops or not. In any case, if you’re in that latter category and you know you need to disclose this problem to your wife then today’s episode is for you. Let me just say right off the bat that over the last 10 years the number of women using porn has drastically increased. So we could have just as easily titled this “How and When to Tell Your Husband About Your Porn Addiction” but it is still the case that the majority of users are male. And probably an even greater majority of undisclosed users are male. So please pardon on the male references. Much of what we have to say today would apply just as well to a wife disclosing to her husband for the first time. Should I Tell My Wife? The short answer is: yes! In our broader culture over the past decades porn was viewed as something normal and harmless. I think some folks still holds this view but in recent years the research has consistently shown that porn use has a wide range of adverse effects on marriage, on the people using the porn, and the people who are in the porn industry. Not all - but many of the actors and actresses are victims of human trafficking and have other very challenging issues they are facing on a daily basis. We talked more extensively about how porn impacts marriage in a past article/episode but just to recap and summarize, porn use results in: Reduced marital satisfaction Reduced commitment, possibly leading to increased risk of infidelity Reduced sexual satisfaction Reduced intimacy On top of that, the consequences of keeping the addiction a secret can be just as damaging as the addiction itself. Keeping parts of your life hidden from your spouse, the shame that surrounds the secret, and the fear of being discovered, all erode at the trust and intimacy between a couple. A research study from 2009[i] found that this secrecy creates a "crack" in the marriage bond, which is then likely to widen as the husband's shame and fear cause him to emotionally withdraw. So leaving the issue a secret can have harmful consequences. Finally, telling your spouse is an essential first step in change. Keeping it a secret promotes the cycle of shame[ii], where shame and negative feelings compel you to want to use porn to feel better, which creates further shame. This cycle gets harder and harder to break out of unless you tell someone about it and admit to needing help. Can I Just Tell Someone Else? That’s a valid question: you understand that this disclosure is going to hurt her the most. I do think you need to bring one or two same-sex friends into your confidence and learn to be open and honest with them. But at the same time, it is your wife who has been betrayed by your actions. She has the right to know that the most important person in her life has betrayed her. We had this discussion recently among our counseling team. Is there ever a situation where it makes sense not to disclose? One possible situation is if either of you is on your death bed. Not only is there the shattering impact of loss right in front of you, but also the loss of who your spouse thought you were. That creates some profoundly complex grief to sort through and may just not be fair in a situation like that or if you are in the middle of some other major crisis. Timing may be an issue. But the fundamental components of having a happy marriage are things like commitment, loyalty, and trust. You cannot keep a pornography addiction secret and hope to simultaneously excel at those three things. Not only that but keeping the pornography use secret — even if she never asks about it — is an act of dishonesty. It is my belief that dishonesty is morally wrong. In our Christian faith,

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