Tag Archive | Marriage

What Forgiveness Looks Like to the Porn Addict’s Wife

I’ve had a week of soul searching. Of examining the cobwebby crevices of my heart. I am tired now. Genuinely evaluating my emotions, attitudes and beliefs often brings me unsettling answers that don’t comfortably agree with the reality I have created for myself. Staring at my own unhealthy and sinful behaviours is deflating. It requires change of me. More healing. Growth. Effort. Energy. Exhaustion.

It began at my Life group meeting last week. We are currently studying a book called The Bait of Satan by John Bevere which deals with offense, the pain of betrayal, and the effects of unforgiveness. Leading myself and the other women through these lessons has been challenging. There have been some really tough issues for all of us to tackle.

This week I entered the wrestling ring. Shaking my understanding of where in the process of forgiveness I stand with my husband. Doubting my certainty that I have forgiven him for the deep pain his pornography addiction, intimacy anorexia, emotional abuse, and sexual betrayal and rejection have inflicted upon me, our marriage and our children.

I have received and claimed an unexplainable forgiveness over these past wounds. A release and fading of the painful memories. The past pummeling just doesn’t matter anymore. I very seldom return to those times, because although they have contributed significantly to the woman I am, they don’t define me. And they don’t define my husband either. We are a couple recovering from his sex addiction, not living in the throes of it.

The lesson asked four questions warning of the possibility that I may still be harbouring unforgiveness in my heart. Even through a stubborn insistence that forgiveness has been extended.

  1. Why am I compelled to tell my side of the story?
  2. How can I fight thoughts of suspicion or distrust?
  3. What can I do to stop rehearsing past hurts?
  4. How can I regain trust after someone deeply offends me?

These are warning signs. None of them, or even all together, indicate the presence of unforgiveness, merely the possibility. As I answered these questions as honestly as I could, it was number three that pinged at my heart. What can I do to stop rehearsing past hurts? Rehearsing past hurts. Rehearsing. Past. Hurts.

But I don’t really think I am rehearsing past hurts. The hurts I am revisiting are current. From the last few years of our marriage. Not the first twenty five. I have extended grace and forgiveness to both of us for our inability to comprehend the depth of sexual betrayal and destruction we were allowing and inviting into our home before D-Day and recovery.

But now. I have an entirely different set of expectations and boundaries. We both know now what we didn’t know then. The healing process, the journey, is filled with intentional decisions. And when many of the choices my husband makes now to avoid communication and sexual intimacy continues to hurt me, it is a new pain. A fresh gash running alongside the scab. My tears are for today, not for yesterday.

Perhaps there is unforgiveness mingled in with my disappointment and discouragement at what remains broken. At what is being withheld from me. It’s more about what is than what was. With healing, effort, and intentionality I can release the hurts of the past. I have. Forgiveness towards my husband has flowed relatively easily for me.

Forgiveness doesn’t spring from my heart as readily when the stinging blows of rejection keep coming.  Even with all the recovery tools and resources I have gained and utilized to heal from his addiction. Even with a deeper understanding of what forgiveness is.

I’m not refusing to forgive my husband. He is just as deserving and worthy of forgiveness and mercy as I am. I’m not waiting for a magical moment, for that something to happen, or those words to be spoken before I release my feelings of resentment. I’m just recognizing that forgiveness is not a one time occurrence. It is a deliberate decision that I need to make daily because new offenses will come. They just will. Perfection is not attainable for any human.

And so I ask myself:

Have I forgiven my husband for the devastation his sex addiction and intimacy anorexia inflicted upon me for the first twenty five years of our marriage? I believe I have.

Do I still hold unforgiveness in my heart for the remaining fractures and new bruises? I reluctantly admit that I do.

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Psalm 51:10

Change Your Hair, Transform Your Heart

My husband shaved his head this weekend. He had been telling me for the last few days that his hair was getting too unruly and he would need to cut it all off soon. And yet I was still unprepared for the moment when I turned to greet him as he walked into the kitchen after his shower. The baldness startled me. My heart received a sharp pang, and the lump in my throat that was holding back the tears from rising to my eyes grew. He knew instantly that I was dismayed. I attempted to smooth over my reaction by mumbling something about how I wouldn’t be able to run my fingers through his hair anymore.

But that wasn’t the real reason. I couldn’t even look at him. All day I managed to talk and interact with him while avoiding eye contact, and well, looking at his head at all. If my eyes naturally glanced at his face as he began to speak, they quickly bounced away before the image had a chance to embed itself in memories of pain, rejection and abuse.

My husband’s hair, or rather his lack of hair, triggers me. He doesn’t know that. He does know that it upsets me whenever he shaves his head. But I have never told him why. I have chosen not to because it is his hair, on his body, after all, and he has every right to keep his hair at whatever length he wants to. I would not appreciate my husband trying to impose his will over me for any of my personal body choices. I believe that he thinks I just prefer him with hair. Not much different from how I favour the blue T-shirt that matches his eyes over his other clothing options.

But it does go deeper than that. In the beginning stages of our dating and married life, my husband had hair. He kept it fairly short, but still, there was hair on his head. This was the man I was attracted to and fell in love with. Then he began closely shaving his head. I don’t believe it was a defining moment for either of us. How much hair he did or didn’t have was of little importance throughout our marriage.

Until four and a half years ago when I confronted him, and the depth of his sex addiction and intimacy anorexia was exposed. Corresponding with the timing of his decision to battle and enter a recovery program for his pornography use, his head began to be covered in soft, blond curls. I was quite curious and intrigued by this seeming connection of my husband seeking healing and recovery, and letting his hair grow out.

My husband is a big man. With his bald head, his appearance was somewhat intimidating. While in the throes of his pornography addiction and intimacy anorexia, he was an angry, disconnected, emotionally abusive man. The hardness of his heart was displayed on his face. For twenty five years.

As my husband embraced his recovery program, his entire body language shifted and relaxed. The tension was released from his body. His face softened. The blond curls framed his newly smiling eyes. The undeniable change in his physical presence was a gift that allowed me to trust that the same thing was happening in his heart. It was.

And now, I found it so difficult to meet my husband’s gaze. The man who loves me, cherishes me and fights daily for his freedom from addiction. His appearance propelled me back to a time when there was nothing but coldness and indifference in his eyes.

Throughout my day, God gently reminded me that an altered appearance does not reverse the restoration of a heart. Lessons I had received early in my recovery relating to change and transformation surfaced in my thoughts.  They are not the same thing.

Change can change again. It involves a modification of behaviour or actions, making something different, and is usually motivated by the realization that something is no longer working to your satisfaction or needs. Change generally seeks improvement whether it is the filing system at work, repainting your house, or cutting your hair. But it is often temporary, either returning to how it was before, or to something else again.

Transformation has a permanence to it. An overhaul. It does involve change, but also a renewal of one’s character, not just actions. It is the result of a repentant heart pursuing and finding healing and freedom. And once it happens, once awakened to the beauty of life, there is no going back. Transformation acknowledges the past, learns from it and celebrates a new way of living.

My husband changed his outward appearance. And he will again. Throughout his life. So will I. But God has transformed his heart just as He has transformed mine. My husband is a new creation. I am a new creation. Our marriage has been rebuilt and redeemed. And that remains the same whether he has hair on his head or not.

As water reflects the face, so one’s life reflects the heart. Proverbs 27:19

Seeking a Satisfied Heart

I’m still waiting. Surprisingly, more patiently than I would have expected amidst my sadness of the last few months. Perhaps because I have changed my focus. Oh, my heart still yearns for the mutually fulfilling sexual intimacy that remains as elusive as finding a family of brightly coloured M & Ms dancing in my backyard. And I am certainly not going to pretend I found a way for it to not matter anymore. History has proven me to be pretty gullible at believing lies and accepting deception, but even I can’t convince myself that the pain of continual sexual rejection and neglect is inconsequential.

But what I am doing is trying my darnedest to no longer let my disappointment and discouragement consume and taint all areas of my life. It is a satisfied heart I seek. A heart that is able to experience peace and joy despite my prevailing sadness. A heart that is open to the goodness of life and God’s creation even when my healing process is not following my predetermined timeline. Even when things don’t seem to be on my timeline at all.

Sometimes, or rather often, when the wounds of sexual betrayal trauma begin to bleed again, I hold my fragile heart tightly in my hands. It is considerably stronger and healthier than it was four years ago. But still there are scars. Some now only faint reminders of the pain and abuse inflicted upon me by my husband’s sex addiction and intimacy anorexia. Others, fading nicely. But this stubborn scab. Nope. It remains resistant to healing.

I will pray for everybody and everything except for the pain that haunts me. And taunts me. And has burrowed into the crevices of my heart. It’s not that I never have. It just seems like there is nothing more to say. I’ve poured my heart out to God. The silent screams. The very real tears. The flickering hope. The guilt and embarrassment of acknowledging that my greatest source of suffering is sexual in nature when others are dealing with considerably more stress and loss filled situations and circumstances in their lives.

My marriage has disappointed me. My husband has disappointed me. My own sinful behaviours and choices have disappointed me. But God has not disappointed me. And I want to keep it that way. Confused and angered me, yes. But when those emotions emerge, I have been able to address and overcome them. For me personally, those emotions don’t threaten to infect and poison my heart and mind in the same way as the crushing defeat of unmet expectations. If I pray, and wait expectantly for an answer, and I don’t receive the response I want or think I should get, well, then, my hope wavers. My trust in God weakens. The domino falls and my trust in my husband falters, and then in myself. My heart begins to ache. The pain crescendos again. And then I stumble and fall into the pity party that welcomes me with open arms and chocolate. Lots of chocolate.

I know this cycle. I am tired of this cycle. I have crawled and lunged through every distorted room of the misnamed carnival fun house forwards, backwards and sideways. With joy, terror and an uneasy acceptance of my task. I have concluded that praying for me, for my marriage, for sexual healing is not safe. And as someone recovering from sexual betrayal trauma, I crave safety and security. A sure foundation.

I have taken many courageous leaps of faith on this journey to wholeness. Some looked like the tiniest of baby steps, others soaring jumps off the ferris wheel. Both were scary. And rewarding. In more ways than I could have ever imagined. Or expected. I have followed the popcorn trail through the chaotic fairgrounds savouring the buttery, salty prize along the way. But for some reason, the freshly squeezed lemonade stand remains elusive and I am unable to quench my thirst. I have sought guidance, and received directions, but they don’t take me to the destination I desperately seek. The popcorn doesn’t taste quite as good as it once did. My heart is not satisfied.

I began writing this post two months ago. When I opened it again, I wasn’t sure what I would find. I didn’t know if the current state of my heart and mind would align with my thoughts from then, and I could pick up where I left off, or if my words would be relegated to the recycle bin. Truthfully, after four years of recovery, I would hope and expect that I would not be stuck in the exact same place for over two months without any movement. But there I was. And here I am.

I cried this weekend. Two days in a row. Saturday evening, the tears of my aching heart appeared on my cheeks as I dared to expose my pain and offer my crushed dreams to God to hold in His hands. I prayed the prayer I was withholding from us all – husband, wife and our Father God. I can’t say that I felt instantly lighter or hopeful. But by allowing God into my deepest pain, I didn’t feel so alone. My burden became more bearable.

In Sunday morning’s church service, the worship band led the two songs that I cherish as being significant healing forces in the very early stages of our disclosures and recovery. The first, “Great are You Lord” was the song I uncontrollably sobbed to, and loudly croaked along with, broken and alone in my living room. Just me, God and my overwhelming pain. Indeed, God was and continues to be the breath in my lungs. The second song, “Oceans” was the daily faith and trust builder that provided me the courage to press forward, lean into Jesus, and prepare my shattered heart for healing. And it did it again. The tears welled in my eyes as God’s tender, merciful whisper to “trust Me” infused my soul with peace and hope.

So I am. Trusting God. And seeking a satisfied heart. I think the two are inseparable.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:27

Spiritual Intimacy is Knocking on My Bedroom Door

The chorus to my life song has been on a frustrating loop this winter. As beautiful and triumphant as the lyrics and melody of God’s amazing grace and glory have been in my life, feeling stuck on repeat was hindering me from recognizing that the tones were becoming richer and deeper. I did not recognize that God has been steadily and surely composing the next verse for me.

I write a lot about my discouragement and pain in reclaiming and building sexual intimacy in my decades long sexless marriage ravaged by my husband’s sex addiction, pornography use, intimacy anorexia and my own adultery and recovery from childhood sexual abuse, premarital sex and sexual betrayal trauma. What I don’t generally write about is the same deep desire I have to connect spiritually with my husband and cultivate a spiritual intimacy that is new to our marriage since we began recovery four years ago.

It is that spiritual intimacy that is becoming stronger and lusher. And yet I nearly missed tasting the sweet harvest that God has been nurturing because of my narrow focus on what I believe is lacking sexually in our marriage rather than looking at the bigger picture of what God has redeemed and continues to heal, restore and transform.

I want to talk to my husband about God. I want to talk to God with my husband. I want us to share and celebrate our God moments; the big and little miracles that happen throughout our day; the impact and perfect timing of a scripture to strengthen, comfort or challenge us. I want us to grow spiritually together. And I want us to stand as one in awe and anticipation of how God will use us and our redemption story to bring Him glory, and to transform and offer hope to other broken lives and marriages.

My passion to be joined together as one goes far beyond the bedroom. And so, maybe for us, it doesn’t begin in the bedroom. Maybe for us, sexual oneness will be a by-product, an offering of worship that comes from serving God as a couple. And maybe, as we wholly serve God both individually and jointly, the fulfillment that brings will satisfy my heart and overflow to all areas of my marriage and life.

You see, my hope is rising. From the day four years and four months ago that I implored God to provide me with a godly, Christian husband, He has been answering my prayers. God is providing me with the desires of my heart. With each display of my husband’s spiritual growth, and his support of mine, my heart swells.

Since we began our recovery, our bedtime routine has included praying together. There are other times when we may pray jointly for a specific request. But that has generally been initiated by me. Until the last few weeks, when twice my husband has stopped me to lovingly take my trembling hands in his, join his heart with mine, and lift my troubled spirit to our Heavenly Father. These tender moments brought tears to my eyes and wonder to my soul.

My husband also reads from the Bible to me every night. We are currently reading through the book of Exodus. I find great comfort and strength in the Old Testament stories of God’s faithfulness. The account of Moses’ radiant face after his encounter with God’s glory on the mountain thrills my heart. But then it is a struggle to read with much interest the very detailed list of materials and measurements required to build the tabernacle. But my husband has managed to make this section into a fun learning experience filled with laughter. I don’t know why we need to know about acacia wood, the various metals used, or the colour of the yarn, but I am confident that God delights in the fact that we joyously do.

We have also been attending a Life group together at our church. I am involved with a wonderful and fulfilling women’s group, but still my heart has longed to be a part of a small group as a couple. Sharing, expanding and deepening our faith together with others in an intimate setting. I participated alone for the first few gatherings. Waiting for my husband to respond to the Spirit’s nudging to join me. He did. In this weekly setting, my heart is filled with an extra dose of contentment and security in the us of today and tomorrow.

There has been a gentle shifting in the holy trinity of our marriage. The spiritual presence and connectivity of my husband growing. The answer to my prayer for him to become a spiritual leader in our marriage, home and family emerging.

It is sexy. Not sexual. But exciting and appealing in a way that is filling my heart with gratitude and celebration. And a sliver of guilt and remorse at my failure to appreciate and acknowledge God’s faithful, unrelenting devotion to healing, restoring and building intimacy in our marriage. Piece by broken piece. In His order. In His timing. By His design. With the utmost care for both of our hearts.

I am overwhelmed by God’s goodness.

For the Lord God is our sun and our shield. He gives us grace and glory. The Lord will withhold no good thing from those who do what is right. Psalm 84:11

Porn – The Serial Killer of Our Sexual Intimacy

I baked my husband’s favourite oatmeal chocolate chip cookies after supper last week. It was Valentine’s Day and we hadn’t done anything special to acknowledge it. I hadn’t made any plans for us, and I wasn’t expecting that he would. Our silence on the subject implied an agreement that nothing would differentiate this day from any other. I did place a card on his pillow after work. Intentionally choosing that time rather than the morning, lest it initiate an obligatory and guilt induced errand during the day to reciprocate in some form.

As we sat eating our nachos and smokies, my heart wrenched a little. The flickering desire to connect with my husband more intentionally and intimately was growing stronger. I’ve been missing him. There is a widening crack in our marriage. It’s ironic how stagnancy does that. How inactivity doesn’t just stall development, it feeds the foulness in a marriage no longer striving for healing. The wrong things grow.

I began devising a way to redeem a small part of our evening. Cookies. Milk. Dreams. Talking about our wedding anniversary the following week. Making plans for spring break and summer vacation. Daydreaming about sailing away (literally) into our retirement years. Scheduling time together. The security of there being an us. That was all the romance I needed.

But I didn’t get it. As I sat at the kitchen table, anticipating the emotional intimacy of jointly sharing our hopes and desires for the coming weeks, months and years, my husband walked into the room. He said some kind words of appreciation for the cookies, bent down to give me a quick kiss, grabbed his snack and promptly disappeared. And I didn’t stop him. I sat there alone. Confused and sad. Wondering why he didn’t choose to sit down with me. Wondering why I didn’t invite him to.

I’ve been doing a lot of that lately. Holding back my words, my thoughts, my desires and needs. Reclaiming pieces of my heart that I have decided are no longer safe with my husband. The bruised, broken pieces that I had cautiously, but courageously, offered back to him in the last four years as we began healing and recovering from the betrayal, rejection, neglect, and abuse of his sex addiction, intimacy anorexia and a twenty year sexless marriage.

I have done a tremendous amount of work in the last four years to heal from sexual betrayal trauma, as well as the deep wounds of sexual sin inflicted on me by both myself and others. I have embraced a recovery program that has included counselling, a recovery support group, and reading and completing numerous workbooks and recovery materials.

And I have prayed. And wept. And prayed. And burrowed into the Bible. Where I discovered refuge and the promise of forgiveness, hope, grace, and extravagant love. Where God’s comfort, strength and healing power began tenderly restoring His daughter to a new life of wholeness. Where I received the assurance that it was safe to trust God with my heart. And as He drew me towards my husband, I began to understand and believe that it would be okay to trust my husband with it too.

And now my heart aches. The pain of sexual rejection and neglect continues to wash over me. I wrestle with resentment, bitterness, envy, self pity and intense sadness. My hope for God designed, mutually fulfilling sexual intimacy wanes. I am angry at those who have falsely offered me the assurance that when my husband overcame his pornography addiction, his brain would become rewired to sexually desire me. Well, he has, and he doesn’t. He denies the latter. But as recovery teaches us – believe behaviours, not words.

I don’t know for how long we can blame his former pornography addiction and compulsive masturbation for the lack of sexual intimacy in our marriage. I don’t know if, or when, the issue shifts from the effects of past porn use to a current unwillingness or ability to prioritize sexual health.

It appears that we will likely never have a conventional sex life. As we have both neared the age of fifty, the physical health of our bodies has betrayed us. It is my desire to find ways to compensate for and overcome these obstacles to cultivate and enrich our sexual intimacy, whether short or long term. An intimate connection that will work for us and be uniquely ours. My husband does not share this desire with me. And that hurts. A lot.

But what hurts even more than the continued sexual deprivation and neglect is the prevalent dishonesty, deception, and avoidance related to our sexual issues. My needs are being ignored and shamed. As are my requests for communication. I feel like I am being strung along as I was for the first twenty five years of our marriage. Being manipulated to keep the boat from rocking.

I am being denied the opportunity to improve our sexual intimacy, and I am being denied the ability to mourn and grieve an integral part of marriage. Of my marriage.

The last several months, I have been unable to fully trust my husband’s words and behaviours. That makes me sad. My heart is his. My body is his. But he can’t or won’t accept that gift. And I don’t know why.

I struggle with this. I recently encouraged a friend by telling her that if she was struggling and wrestling, that meant she was still showing up every day for the battle. She hadn’t surrendered to the enemy.

I haven’t given up either. Even though some days the temptation is strong. I truly believe that God continues to heal, restore and redeem that which pornography and addiction destroyed in our lives and stole from our marriage. I’m awaiting the final victory. Just wishing we were waiting together.

Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4

The Lingerie Store Revisited

There was a crazy lady Christmas shopping at the lingerie store again this year. At first glance she appeared rather ordinary. But the growing grief and hopelessness on her face, and dejection in her body as she walked slowly from one display to another, would have been apparent to anyone with a lingering gaze. Tears gathering in her eyes, she paused, but never touched. Size availability and price was irrelevant for something that would never leave the store in her shopping bag anyway.

Not much has changed since last December when I wrote The Porn Addict’s Wife Wears Lingerie (or tries to). It is my most read post, more likely because it contains the words porn, addict and lingerie, than people are interested in the bewildering emotions of a middle aged sexually broken woman. And yet there I was, and here I am again.

A lot can happen in a year. And a lot may not happen. Healing brings breakthroughs, and setbacks, and periods of rest and adjustment. Sometimes longer periods of rest than my anxious heart handles with patience and grace.

Last December, I entered that lingerie store with a twinkle in my eye. The winter and Christmas themed lingerie answering the longing in my heart for sexual lightness and fun in my marriage. But then. The fear of unknown triggers. I dejectedly left the store with that same unfulfilled desire, along with a deepened sense of loss wondering if my sexuality and healthy fantasies would be forever tainted by my husband’s past pornography addiction.

Last week was both the same and different as a year ago. I don’t even know why I entered the lingerie store other than to poke my finger into my own open wounds. I knew before I even crossed the threshold that I would not be making any purchases again this year. But maybe, just maybe, the merchandise could offer me a tiny flicker of hope where I had none. I wanted everything that the lingerie was selling me. Everything that was embodied in that magical piece of clothing.

I felt empty as I browsed the store. And then a profound sadness enveloped me. Even the cozy, fuzzy socks and cheerful penguins couldn’t bring a smile to my face. I wondered why, after another full year of healing and recovery, my response was as filled with grief and despair as if I had just returned the following day and not a year later.

I think my sadness was deeper this time though. A year ago, I was confused. Overwhelmed. Anxious. Still a little raw in figuring out how this whole healthy sexuality thing was supposed to work for my husband and I. But I believed it would work. It just wasn’t quite there yet….

Well, a year later, and the hammer of realization that not only was it not quite there yet, it didn’t seem any closer. It is hard to hold onto hope when you feel crushed. Defeated. Mocked by the lingerie displays and menacing penguins. So I didn’t. I plummeted.

But this is where the benefit of an additional year of recovery was revealed to me. I didn’t stay in that darkness long. I visited, but there was nothing for me in that place. It felt wrong and uncomfortable and self indulgent. And dishonouring to God.

I heard the whisper to my soul. Acknowledging the deep hurt and unfulfilled desires of my broken sexuality. If there was a promise of better things to come at that moment, I didn’t hear it. But the raging discontent in my mind and heart quieted.  And that was enough.

A couple days later, God’s whisper shouted to me from the pages of my devotional book as I read about the healing of emotional wounds. An illustration was provided where several shoelaces were tied together in a knot with each knot representing a different problem in my life. Unravelling the knots and smoothing out my troubles would require time and effort. It isn’t possible for the untangling to happen all at once. I need to remember that although it may seem that I am not making any progress, God is untying my knots one at a time. In the order and way He chooses. Not in mine. My responsibility is to co-operate with God in whatever area He has decided we are going to work on first. And sweatpants just might be more important than lingerie.

I’m impatient. I get discouraged. I whine about what is missing rather than being grateful for what has been redeemed and restored in our decades long sexless and porn ravaged marriage. I want our sexual intimacy healed yesterday. Or more honestly, years ago. But there is much bondage, abuse and sexual sin in this one shoelace alone, even once it has been disentangled from the messy ball of life’s other hurts and issues.

My solution would be to grab a pair of scissors and with a few precise snips remove the troublesome knots leaving a perfectly functioning bow in its place. And I would do that after only a few minutes of frustration. But that is not God’s way.

I know because God continues to carefully and slowly heal my wounds and align the desires of my heart with His. Whether I’m wearing flannel pyjamas, silky lingerie or nothing at all. He won’t quit. He never does. So, I guess I shouldn’t either.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:8,9

Your Husband is a Porn Addict, or Maybe Not, and Why That Matters

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