Pornography use and addiction are difficult to talk about, especially with our spouses. It can be perceived as a deep betrayal (often on par with physical infidelity), the pain of which can be a serious deterrent from confessing. Personally, I kept myself from revealing my porn use to Jessica because of the pain, anger, frustration, and sadness I knew it caused her. Rather than deal with reality and face the problem I created, I chose to keep it hidden. I didn't want to deal with the consequences of my own problems, so I selfishly avoided them. Shamefully, I cared more about making my life easier, than I did about my own wife's feelings. Had she never discovered my addiction, I might still be stuck in that destructive cycle.
Revealing these hidden secrets can be painful, but if you want to quit, then it must be done. I support any addict who wants to overcome this pain, confront their fears, and fully confess to their spouse the wrongs they have committed. For this reason, I have five tips to help you take this important step. They will not cure your addiction for you or fix your marriage. But, if done right, they will prepare you to handle this important step in a way that promotes healing, and will put you on the right path toward keeping your spouse in the fight with you.
Prayer is powerful, and you will need lots of it. You will need forgiveness from God in order to move forward, and you will want to keep your relationship with Him strong as you progress. Apart from that, you will want to pray for personal strength, that you might have the courage to continue through the challenges that come (there will be many). Last but not least, you will want to pray for your spouse and for their healing. They will need emotional strength, as well as a Godly attitude in coping with your mistakes and lies. Prayer should be constant, and it will always be helpful.
2. Own up to your mistakes
Do not make excuses for your behavior. Do not try to shift the blame. You need to admit, honestly and directly, that you made some big mistakes. You made horrible, impulsive choices, you lost self control, you acknowledge the pain it causes, and you are very sorry. Don't expect this alone to make everything okay in your spouse’s eyes, but it will go a long way. Believe it or not, when the dust has settled from this, your spouse will actually respect you. Simply apologizing and owning up will ultimately garner you more respect than weak excuses. It may not happen right away. It may take weeks or months, but when you do the hard work and yield the results of healing, you will have their respect.
3. Be honest
This one is incredibly tough. It can be so tempting to downplay the severity of this problem, but your spouse deserves the honest truth. It may be uncomfortable, but you must be prepared to be brutally, painfully honest. Your spouse may have many, many questions: How long has this been going on? How often? Is it limited just to porn, or has it progressed to physical relationships? What kind of porn were you looking at (was it illegal, extreme, or “weird” in any way?)? But all of these questions are symptomatic of the deeper root question that gets at the heart of their concern: How bad is it? Until this moment, your spouse has been proceeding with the relationship under the false impression that things were okay. Now that you have decided to reveal the truth, there is no excuse for holding back.
4. Give space
Your spouse will need time to cope with this situation. Give it to them. They are dealing with brand new and likely shocking information for the first time, so they will need time and space to come to terms with it. It is tempting to pressure your wife or husband into forgiving you as soon as possible, but this kind of weaponized guilt is not effective, meaningful, or helpful. Your spouse will reach the point of forgiveness in their own time. If they need to cry, let them cry. If they need therapy, let them get it. Just accommodate their needs as best you can until they are ready to talk.
5. Have a plan
Your recovery won’t happen by accident. Have a plan ready to execute as soon as possible. This will not only help you with recovery, but it will show your spouse some concrete, measurable steps that you are taking toward conquering the problem. Don't be vague by promising changes “soon.” Set deadlines for yourself, lay out goals, and clearly state specific changes that you will be making immediately. Your husband or wife will want assurances of your willingness and desire to change, and will look for the transformation in your behavior. Speak to a professional, a trusted friend, or a mentor to help you get a plan in place that will set you on the road to success.
Make no mistake, this list does not contain everything you need to reach sobriety. You won’t pull yourself out of the porn cycle just with these five steps. There is so much more work to be done afterward - some of it is lifelong. However, this list will prepare you and your spouse for the initial reveal, and will help you both kick off the healing process right.
Porn addiction thrives on silence. To break that silence means overcoming considerable doubt, fear, and shame. Don’t stay silent any longer. Get help, and start the journey to recovery the right way.