I’ve been noticing a disturbing trend lately. A jamming together of puzzles pieces that don’t necessarily belong together. The variations of “Help! I found pornography on the computer and don’t know how to deal with my partner’s porn addiction.” I understand the shock and heartache of discovering your partner’s porn usage. I really and truly know that pain well. What troubles me is the immediate assumption and leap that evidence of porn use indicates the presence of an addiction.
Discovering the existence of pornography in your relationship is definitely a cause for concern that needs to be addressed with the user. I am absolutely not minimizing or denying the damage that pornography use inflicts upon the user, the partner or their relationship, or encouraging anyone else to do so. But I am questioning the growing belief, particularly in the Christian community, that viewing pornography equals an addiction.
I believe using pornography is destructive. What it may or may not be though, is an addiction. And I think, as the devastated partner, it is important to determine where on the spectrum your husband or wife falls so you know what you are dealing with. It is not a measure of your pain. It is not an indication of where your feelings of betrayal should or should not be. Pain is pain is pain. But it seems to me that it is possible that assigning a predetermined label to the issue without knowing the facts can add another level of pain that may be totally unnecessary and unhelpful to your well-being and the situation.
Personally, my mind easily jumps to worst case scenarios. This leads to needless anxiety, distress and fear. In seconds, the images or internet searches that shocked my brain have morphed into flashing lights in my driveway as police officers come to arrest my husband. A pregnant stranger appears at my door searching for him. He loses his job. I become homeless. My community shuns him, me, us. My life and future destroyed. I am hopeless, defeated, filled with despair. And I haven’t even taken my eyes off the screen or talked to my husband yet.
Sadly, and awfully, those scenarios do happen. But not always. So, instead of being convinced that your partner is a full blown sex addict and your marriage and life is beyond repair, take a deep breath and begin the process of finding out what you together, and alone, are up against. A curiosity. A bad habit. An early stage addiction. Or yes, an outright, big, fat, ugly pornography addiction.
The computer history will not likely provide a clear answer. And quite possibly, neither will your partner. But accusing your partner of being a porn addict may simply magnify the problem for both of you. If you are prematurely and carelessly slapping a porn addict label on your spouse, you have also affixed one to yourself. And that may be self-defeating to the care you so desperately need. Your perspective will have a significant influence on your personal healing as much as it will on your partner and marriage.
It is important to know if you are fighting to defeat the devastating effects of pornography, or of pornography and an addiction. Overcoming and recovering from an addiction is possible. The battle is not insurmountable. But it is a different battle than unlearning a bad habit and replacing it with healthier behaviour. For both of you. And that matters.
Guilt over one’s bad behaviour may be a motivator for change. But shame seldom is. If condemnation fills either of your hearts, there is no room for transformation and freedom. If either of you believes the bondage is greater than it is, quite possibly an attitude of hopelessness and despair will prevail. The message you feed yourself and your partner matters. Will it be the truth, or a lie that continues to destroy?
The invasion of pornography’s heavy darkness into your souls and relationship is destructive whether the pieces are still being put into place for an addiction, or it has progressed to a compulsive need. That really makes no difference. Wherever on the spectrum your partner may be, the revealing of pornography use is good news. Light is shining through and illuminating a very real problem with very deep consequences. You are being given an opportunity for yourself and your marriage to be healed and restored from damage that you may not have even knew existed. Or why it did.
Your heart has been shattered. Your soul ravaged. And none of it is your fault. There is no blame or responsibility for you to bear when your partner chooses to indulge their lust or medicate their pain with pornography.
Calling pornography use a bad habit or an addiction doesn’t change the depth of your pain or your ability to heal from it. But mislabeling it may magnify or minimize the issue and affect the path that you, your partner and your marriage will need to navigate for healing. And it is your path. Of light, hope and promise to not just hurt anymore, but to thrive.
I know it is possible. I have seen it. And I am living it.
Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. John 8:32