August 10, 2016

How Porn Creates Angry Men

Gary Thomas — 

This blog is not written for women in abusive marriages. The advice offered in these posts will challenge both husbands and wives, but the advice could be counter-productive if it is applied in an abusive relationship.

How Porn Creates Angry Men (1)

Plenty of research has come out about porn’s effects on men—erectile dysfunction, making your brain less attracted to your wife, distorting a man’s view of women overall, etc.  One I haven’t seen listed, though, is anger.

Men who regularly give in to porn often have a lot of anger toward their wives.

I’m not a therapist or a neuro-scientist. I’m writing from the perspective of one who does pastoral counseling. And in that context I have witnessed the effects of porn leading to anger with men and couples with whom I’ve met. Plenty of other researchers are far more qualified and perhaps more interested in writing about this, but I’ve gotten so many questions from the last blog post (where I mention porn’s connection to anger casually) that I thought I should follow up with this. I need to thank the men who have shared their struggles with me as well as those who have written in with specific insights for this particular post. I had thought of one or two reasons why porn might lead to anger, but the shared personal experiences of these men has opened my eyes to several more.

As a caveat, I am fully aware that a growing number of women use porn. I’m not mentioning women in this post because I haven’t personally worked with a single woman who has struggled with porn. I’m not sure if the neurological effect is the same, and I’m not qualified to say.

First, when a man acts with anger out of proportion to the situation at hand, it might simply be a fruit of the lack of self-control. Obedience and sin both shape us. Our choices ultimately shape our character, for good or for ill. If we demonstrate a lack of control in one area, it will manifest itself in all other areas. If we can’t control lustful desires, we won’t be able to control inappropriate expressions of anger.

Second, as one man who struggles in this area described it to me, “Porn is idolatry at its core.  False gods of every kind disappoint.” When we’re disappointed, we get angry. Healthy marital sex leaves us with such a satisfied soul—not just immediately, but in the hours and even days that follow. Porn does the opposite—it over-promises and under-delivers, and leaves a man depleted and unsatisfied and therefore angry that he’s been “cheated” (even though he’s the one doing the cheating). It’s one of the most confounding spiritual things you’ll ever see—men truly hate the thing they’ve just done, but then they keep going back and doing it.

Third, particularly among spiritually sensitive men who are trying to walk in obedience, porn leads to spiritual anguish.  God, in his kindness, isn’t likely to let a man become numb to the offense of porn unless that man makes himself callous over repeated and unrepentant use. At first, the man feels shame, guilt, remorse, and perhaps even self-loathing. That’s for a day or so. A little later, Satan comes in to make a bad situation worse, and, as the chief accuser says, “If only your wife were a little more affectionate…” “If only your wife were a little more available…” “If only your wife were a little more understanding…”

What this temptation does is give men something to blame their wives for.  Now, in this twisted version, the spiritual anguish the man feels isn’t his fault for failing, it’s the wife’s fault for setting him up to fail. When a man finds himself getting angry all out of proportion for something the wife did, it might be because he is letting off steam from the spiritual anguish of falling several days before. He hates what he has done and become, and it’s his wife’s fault. Or so he thinks.

A fourth reason is really ugly, but it’s the sad truth: your husband is angry because he has learned to enjoy porn more than real sexual intimacy, and when you’re around, he can’t indulge. He has to hide from you, which makes him resent your very presence. This is the true assault on marriage: you become an impediment to his sexual satisfaction, not an expression of it. You’re “standing in the way” and that makes him angry.

A fifth reason porn causes anger is because of jealousy, but perhaps not like you think. Most women loathe the notion of their husband being physically attracted to the women in these videos, but I don’t think it’s primarily about physical attraction. Wives, let me assure you, porn has little to do with your appearance or value. I recently finished the autobiography of a famous 70s-era singer. On one occasion, he was regularly cheating on his wife while on tour with a steady girlfriend. His wife was a former model, and his girlfriend was a current model. Then he met an actress. While his wife was at home, he left his mistress in the hotel suite, saying he had a business meeting, and proceeded to cheat on his mistress with the actress. He managed to cheat on two women at once!

At one season in his life, he admitted that his driver would drop off one young woman at the airport, drive to another terminal, and pick up a new one to bring home. These were all stunningly beautiful women (according to popular stereotype).

That’s why I tell wives this behavior isn’t about you. It was never about you. This is behavior that even the most glamorous of women couldn’t affect. When your husband is addicted to the “new,” which is what porn does to his brain (research the “Coolidge effect”) no woman in the world can be beautiful enough to keep a man faithful because once she’s familiar, she’s no longer so alluring.

I hate even typing these words, because it represents a direct assault on God’s design for marriage—cherishing and being enthralled with one woman for life. And that’s the problem with the anger that comes from jealousy. The best kind of sex in marriage is when a husband is cherishing his wife and the wife is cherishing her husband. Sex affirms each other’s beauty, worth and desirability. Neurologically, the more you have sex with each other, the more you desire each other and the less attractive other women become. This is basic brain chemistry.

The jealousy that comes from watching porn reverses this. I think men get jealous that another woman is pleasing another man—the voyeur is getting sexually excited, but he’s not the one being touched or pleasured. He’s watching another man be pleasured so he has to take care of himself. How can that not make a man a little angry? It’s like he’s being teased.

And here’s the thing: while anger can fuel lust, it empties love. The same thing that might create sexual excitement in the face of lust can make sexual performance wilt in a situation when you are called to cherish. I can’t cherish a woman I’m angry at, can I? So the continued use of porn will change what I value in sex, turning me away from cherishing and making porn seem “necessary” to get sexually excited, even if I have a willing wife, because I have to engender lust in order to sexually perform. So even when you do have sex with your wife, it’s a different kind of sex, an inferior kind, sometimes even a destructive kind. It may even seem like sex is something you’re doing to your wife rather than experiencing with your wife.

This explains why porn can temporarily seem to revive a man’s sexual interest before it eventually depletes it. It’s two entirely different kinds of sexual interest, though. And the negative kind is one that will destroy future sexual fulfillment in marriage.

So, wives, why are your porn-using husbands angry?

 

  • They are angry because they are suffering the consequences of a lack of self-control.

 

  • They are angry because they are being disappointed by a false idol.

 

  • They are angry because of the spiritual anguish they feel fighting it, and they’ve found a way to blame you for the struggle.

 

  • They are angry because your very presence inhibits acting out their preferred sexual desires.

 

  • They are angry because another woman is teasing them and they’re taking it out on you. Since you’re a woman, you’re guilty by association.

 

I have zero desire to become a “specialist” on this; it’s taken enough out of me just to write this post, so let me point you to Dr. Harry Schaumburg’s ministry (www.stonegateresources.org), or the well-known ministries of Covenant Eyes or XXX Church for remedial care. These ministries have far better understanding and resources to help deal with this on a more comprehensive level. I’m just adding the spiritual effects to the negative impact of porn—as if we needed any more warnings than we’re already getting.

A Quick Word to the Wives

Before I end an already long blog post, please let me say something to the wives: speaking as a pastor, most thoughtful men I know who struggle with this hate doing it and they hate themselves for giving in. I grieve for these men. Many have been targeted from an early age and lacked the spiritual sophistication to fight it when they were first confronted with it. By the time they realized what was going on, they had developed minds that will be vulnerable for perhaps the rest of their lives. If you use this post against them rather than trying to understand them, it won’t be helpful. I do believe that the habitual, frequent use of porn that obliterates sexual intimacy in marriage can be considered an affair. A man has essentially replaced his wife and is denying her the fulfillment of being sexually desired, celebrated, and fulfilled. If that’s not an affair, I don’t know what is.

But I also know some very earnest and I would say even godly men who fight this with all their might and still occasionally struggle. The brain just won’t let it go. The last thing I want this post to do is make their struggle even worse and increase their shame.

I fully understand that it’s much, much easier for me to be objective as a pastor, as I’m not the one being deprived or hurt, so I also understand if you think I’m letting your man off the hook. I just hope you’ll use this post for understanding, not to attack. Men already know a lot of reasons not to give in, and yet many still do.

Finally—angry husbands existed long before the Internet. While porn can certainly increase a man’s anger, there are many other reasons some men are angry and other issues that need to be addressed. Chip Ingram’s book Overcoming the Emotions that Destroy is a helpful primer for couples working through anger.

A Quick Word to the Husbands

 If you’re struggling with this, yet another post with five additional reasons to avoid porn won’t help you on its own. But perhaps this can give you another reason to keep fighting, and to stay faithful in recovery, however imperfect that recovery might be.

It is so much better to cherish your wife than to be angry with her. A marriage in which you cherish your wife is one of the highest pleasures in life. The very highest pleasure is to have our satisfaction fulfilled by our relationship with God—to daily receive his grace, acceptance, affirmation, and love. I am a firm believer that the best defense is a good offense. If you are addicted, though, offense alone won’t be enough—you’ve got to rebuild the defense. Grow deep in your understanding of grace. Spend the time you used to spend indulging in fantasy and use it to build or rebuild a creative, intimate life with your wife. Pursue your God and your wife. Fight for the good life of joy and intimacy and truth.

If you do that, you will never be on your own. Even if your wife doesn’t understand, your God does. And if you need a little spiritual shot in the arm, just listen to this:Cherish

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=722zPX1npcA

Finally, if you’re curious to understand why I’m talking so much about building a cherishing heart in marriage, you can pre-order the new book now by clicking on the cover.

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47 responses to How Porn Creates Angry Men

  1. I am not sure if anyone is monitoring this to answer some questions, but what is the connection between porn/sexual addiction and narcissism? I feel like the constant pleasuring of himself has now caused my hisband to have many narcissistic characteristics. Or perhaps some of the symptoms are just similar. He is angry at little things, has little empathy and seems immune from conviction. I am not sure what to do at this point. He doesn’t want help and blames me. He walked out on marriage counseling just this week. Apparently the counselor didn’t understand him either because she didn’t agree with his victim mentality. He has been addicted since his teens…we have been married for 32 years.

  2. As a woman who struggled with a pornography addiction from the time I was a girl (I’ve been through counseling and I still cannot figure out how it got started), it turned into serial dating in my adult years because my brain also needed that “new” that Mr. Thomas references. I was married in my early 20’s to a non-believing man, but I still needed that new, and after a year or so of marriage I wasn’t faithful. The Lord, however used the divorce and messy years of infidelity to turn my life toward Him, utilizing a sinful relationship to lead me to a repentant life in Christ. I learned to have sexual self-control over the years, but still struggled occasionally, having to be strict in what I let my eyes watch on TV and movies and surround myself with sisters in Christ, spending my nights with my nose in the Word instead of bar-hopping for the next newest whatever. I say all that to say that the Lord redeemed the years the locusts stole from me. He blessed me with an amazing Pastor’s son as a husband who had never been in a physical relationship before. My husband did, however, also struggle with an addiction to porn and self-pleasure as a teen and young adult, and Jesus used my past struggles to have tangible resources to help him out of it before we married. I understand his struggles so deeply because I’ve been there, and it helps me to humbly submit to him physically in our marriage because we both know just how difficult that struggle is and we both don’t want the other to ever be in that dark place again. Praise God for His mercy in using my dark struggles to bless someone else with the ability to see the light!

  3. We’re seeing a ton of anger associated with porn use. Not to create suspicion but just saying because of the physiology of the brain and most guys finding porn at a young age, it interrupts the formulation process of certain areas of the brain that help teach us how to suppress anger and temper.

  4. My wife and I have been at the forefront of this battle for over 26 years. We are both Licensed Professional Counselors and both Certified Sex Addiction Therapist, Certified Clinical Sex Addiction Specialists, and Clinical Associates with the American Board of Christian Sex Therapists. We work with couples devastated by this modern day plague on our society and the Church. Sadly, current research indicates it is increasingly prevalent in the Church (Barna Group, The Porn Phenomenon). There is hope and help available. Our own story is one of redemption and hope but it takes both becoming “willing to be willing” to grow and change. We have seen many couples survive & thrive as they recover the life & marriage God intended!

    • So grateful for you and those in similar ministries, Roane. I get to be a “drive by” writer here, just throwing out the information and moving on, but it’s people like you, who get in the trenches with the hurting and addicted, who are so essential. Bless you for your efforts, and may God pour out His grace and wisdom on you and your wife.

  5. Coming from a failed marriage that had a husband who struggled with lust, lies, and porn, this was an honest insightful article. Most times I would blame myself for a lot of his anger. This article shed some light.

  6. Gary,

    Thank you for this… Thank you and glory to God!

  7. My husband had had an “addiction” of sorts. I confronted him. We both received counseling, and are currently “cherishing” each other. What I don’t understand is the “struggle” is still there for him. Let me give you a “for instance.”

    The Olympics. I can watch the men with their shirts off and simply watch the sport. My husband has issues with a simple commercial. Why?

    Please understand that I do not condemn him for this, but I am concerned that he will return. He has sought forgiveness and has repented. The Word of God says that we are “victorious” over sin. I understand that there can be a temptation, but he seems to be extreme.

    I’m not unfamiliar with this concept as I smoked for 9+ years and quit cold turkey. When I was having a bad day, I would consider it, or I would say things like, “if only I had a cigarette.” But after time, those feelings disappeared and I no longer have that desire. In fact I find even the idea of it disgusting.

    So, when it’s been years down the road, and there’s still a struggle, I have a hard time understanding why.

    Is there anything you can shed some light on for me?

    • April, what you’re describing is similar to why someone can stand next to another person drinking a glass of wine and be fine, while a recovering alcoholic starts to get shaky hands. Once the barrier has been breached neurologically, those grooves are somewhat permanent. It takes long obedience for them to be reset. Yes, sometimes God miraculously heals, but sometimes his healing is offered by giving an addict the strength to say no dozens of times a day until, eventually, his/her brain is rewired. There is a lot of research out on this.

      We did a series on the 12 steps last summer at Second Baptist, so I did a lot of reading on this. One of the classic books on sexual addiction is “Don’t Call it Love” by Dr. Patrick Carnes. He looks at recovery as a five year process. I believe the line, “recovery involves relapse” is his, but I’m not sure. I read quite a few books and they start to blur after awhile. I think that book would help you understand what your husband is going through (but be forewarned–it’s not an easy read and there are some really ugly stories)

  8. As a man who used to struggle in this area, I can wholeheartedly agree with everything Gary says here. Pornography rots your soul, bottom line. Gallons of ink could be spilled analyzing it, all the terrible things it does, the consequences, the hurt and pain it causes. And a struggling man could read all of those things, and it won’t set him free. He could understand and acknowledge that it is sin, that it is adultery of the heart (which is where adultery comes from), and all the rest, but he will still struggle.

    That was certainly my experience, until I started desiring a real relationship with Jesus. But it took my wife telling me that she was done with me, that she did not want to divorce me because of the children, but that she was praying that God would take her life so that she wouldn’t have to live with me anymore. She couldn’t stand to look at me. That her well was dry, and she had no more to give me. It took her telling me, and confronting me, and refusing to let me back in emotionally. And I feared she would divorce me because of her pain. Finally confronted by my wife (who was trusting God with my response), I was broken. I cried out to God, asked him to fix my life, the mess I had made of it, and I purposed in my heart two things. First, I really was going to surrender my entire life to him. Everything that I was holding onto and looking to for “life” apart from him, I was willing to give it up by and act of my will, even if my feelings were otherwise. And second, I determined to pursue a real relationship with Jesus. I had gone to church all my life, was a deacon, taught sunday school, and knew the Bible as well as anyone. But knowing the Bible, the doctrines, theology…..won’t set you free. Relationship with Jesus is the only thing that will set you free. So that is what I pursued, and I had to figure out for myself what a relationship with Jesus really was. Was it reading the bible every day and praying? Was it memorizing scripture? It includes those things, but every man has to go on his own journey.

    Fireproof, both the movie and the book, had just come along. I went through the 40 day “Love Dare,” and it helped some. After that, I found Gary’s book Sacred Marriage, and it helped, some. I even did a little bible study in our home around Sacred Marriage. And during this time, we stepped back from the edge of divorce about a half-step. But our relationship didn’t really improve much because she still did not feel that she could trust me, that I was more motivated by a desire to “get her back” that to really change and be transformed. And she was right, partially. I did desire to fix what I had broken, but mixed with a true desire to change.

    It was not until I stumbled upon (actually, God led me) to a ministry called Ransomed Heart and John Eldredge. He and his wife’s marriage book Love and War, then every other book he ever wrote. He is the first guy who actually said, in response to pornography addiction, “you can be free of that.” That a man can actually get to a point that he doesn’t struggle and fight some inward pull to look at pornography or another woman. That you can actually be free. There is not time here to tell the story of my entire journey over the past 7 years. But let me say for all reading that you can. For any man reading, you can. That irresistible pull, that urge, that feeling of relief you get when you give your soul over to porn or another woman? You can actually be free. I am a living testimony. And there are many other men I know who, through a process of healing and restoration by Jesus, have been set free. Or else, what is the gospel, if it doesn’t free you from darkness, set prisoners free, and change and transform you into the life Jesus has for you? That is what Jesus said he came to do, in Luke 4, when he came into the temple on the sabbath, was given the scrolls, pulled out Isiah 61, and quoting the prophecy, said, “i am here, to heal the brokenhearted, and to set the captives free.” That was me. I was brokenhearted and captive. And he did it for me.

    Your intuition is right. If you “feel” he is still looking at it, I would almost guarantee you that he is. (my wife knew without catching me). For me, my wife confronting me was what caused me to break. That and sticking to her guns, meaning not just letting me back in emotionally after I promised to do better. But listen carefully, there are no formulas. There are no steps or outlines or principles to follow that will guarantee some out come. What my wife did might not work exactly in your situation. But praying and developing your own intimate relationship with God, where you are then in a place to let him lead you in the next step, that is helpful in knowing what to do. I have seen over and over women who do so much to save a marriage, and basically coddle a man and enable him to keep doing what is destructive. It appears it is time that leave him to what he wants, and trust God. THAT doesn’t mean divorcing him. You have to walk with God. That’s what my wife did. She could write a book.

    • Rob thanks so much for sharing your story and giving men hope that in Christ change is possible

    • Rob, as a wife who is going through this, I thank God for the encouragement. Gary’s article is spot on. The anger and deception has now lead to my husband abandoning me and our marriage. Each day God renews my strength as this is crushing at times. Thankful for spots of encouragement that come from fellow believers. Grace to you and may we all live to serve Him. Soli Deo Gloria!

    • Thank you!

  9. Gary – appreciate you addressing this topic. The silence of too many church leaders is mostly due to their own shame and fear around this issue. We recommend Sacred Marriage to every couple we work with and use your Six Marks of Healthy Sexuality as the vision for Christian marriage. Thankful for your heart and ministry to marriages! Maybe we will see you at AACC next year!

  10. Heather Lovelady August 10, 2016 at 5:34 pm

    I appreciate the input from the article and the heartfelt responses people
    have shared. Anyone who is reading this article is probably hurting or being
    hurt by someone. God is bigger! =)

    To the person who was longing for forgiveness, Jesus offered it with gentleness,
    so should we… He shook up the hard-hearted with firmness. He always showed
    that God is holy. We allow people in our midst to continue on a road to Hell, when
    we make room for a margin of error. Broad is the way that leads to hell and narrow
    is the path that leads to eternal life with God.
    (Matthew 7:13-14…)

    We should never try to be more merciful than God. I did once and it blew up in
    my face. but we should always give love and forgiveness. (Even if we have to confront
    like Matthew 18:15-20 instructs.)

    As, we come broken and repentant before our loving God, He will keep us
    clean and pure…
    Only the Law of God can convict a soul that is tormented in the bondage
    of pornography or any other sin: lying, stealing, murder, gossip, slander,
    coveting, etc.
    “I am a sinner in need of a Savior…” Perhaps if we approach one another with
    that much humility, we will be able to reach more people for the Lord…

  11. Thank you for having the courage to post on this very touchy topic, Gary! I could relate to much of what you have found…it’s amazing how, what the person struggling with addiction is deceived in to believing is compartmentalized, is really leaking out into all areas. A leaky compartment, to say the least 🙂 I also feel like some of the anger might be attributed to their fear in the evidence leaking in risk of being “found out”. A fear that presents in anger.

    I have walked through the devastation that this addiction causes in my own marriage. My goal here is to shed a light on the experience a spouse goes through when the curtain is lifted and their reality (and heart) is shattered. I am two years into the recovery process of discovering my husband’s well hidden addiction. I would have never believed you if you would have described the humongous impact it has had on my person and the intense way I have reacted from being betrayed before I was forced to walk it. I am just now able to read anything about the addiction itself, because doing so, albeit informative, evokes much pain and anger. The truth is good and will set you free, but that doesn’t mean the truth won’t cut like a knife.

    I think I can relate to some of what Allie was saying, in a way. Through this journey women hear things like, “don’t use this information against him”, which can feel invalidating and, quite frankly, blaming. I know personally, I would never want to use anything against my husband, but the information does conjure up pain and questions. Should I tip toe around that and protect him from seeing the pain/impact it’s caused? Why does it seem like the betrayed spouse is not more considered/ministered to, especially in the Christian community?

    In my experience, the men are given abundant grace, celebrated and served ‘high fives’ for taking the brave step into recovery, while the person that is still buried under the rubble of betrayal is being asked to be superhuman. I am SO grateful to have had my faith in Jesus to get me through this…He IS my rock…but I am still human and this is a very difficult journey to walk. I am concerned about the other spouses that have been hit with this and are wounded in a secondary sense for the lack of support and misunderstanding for struggling so greatly.

    • I don’t feel right not mentioning the INCREDIBLE women’s group I found who selflessly love on women that have been taken out by this. The women that lead this group are being used by God to lift and support women that are in such pain from betrayal. Truly the Lord’s hands at work. I’ve described them as members on a special force who courageously jump into the fox hole to drag a wounded soldier out and get them to safety. The lack of support I’ve witnessed is more from responses of other men leaders/counselors I’ve come across in the recovery process.

    • Jen, I think you’re right about additional anger coming from the fear of being found out–that’s something I hadn’t thought of and could easily be a sixth point.

      Church communities vary so greatly that I appreciate being made more sensitive to how sometimes and in some places men are receiving support while wives who have been victimized are having to make it on their own. That hasn’t been something I’ve witnessed personally, so perhaps it was a bit of a blind spot, and so it’s helpful to be made aware it’s a problem. And that woman’s group sounds amazing. I wish every church had something like that. Is there any website that mentions such groups that others could follow up with? Any links you could provide if someone wants to start something like that in their church?

      • I would be interested in knowing what materials the group uses too. I do know of L.I.F.E. Recovery International and their workbook “A L.I.F.E. Recovery Guide for Spouses”. They have a website with materials and contact names, etc. I was in a wives telephone support group as there were no local groups in my area. We did a telephone conference once a week after going through the a chapter of the workbook on our own. It was helpful. And my husband was in a local group at the same time going through the men’s workbook. That is the key to healing – both of you getting help, getting honest, and getting healed daily by the Holy Spirit.

      • Two resources, but in the Cincinnati area:
        1.Healing Betrayed Hearts– The group I mentioned. They’ve developed their own curriculum using many different sources. It requires no payment and is a support group at our church.
        http://www.crossroads.net/hg/healingbetrayedhearts
        2.Safe passages- Adopt the trauma model for the partners going through this (there’s also therapists equipped for the person struggling with addiction). This place provides individual counseling and therapy groups. It is a paid service.
        513.644.8023

        I wish I knew how to start a group…I desire to provide a safe place for women to come and grieve the loss and be supported. I could ask the women that run HBH…I’m sure they’d have plenty of advice on where to begin.

      • Also…what’s a spouse to do when the sobriety is in check, but the projected anger still exists?

  12. Oh, my friend. Having lived with an angry man who was addicted to pornography from the time he was 11 years old, please accept this praise from one who knows. This is extremely well written. And exceptionally truthful. Which leads to freedom. I thought a lot about the effects of porn on my own life. I used to believe that it was me… That I was never good enough. That I could not fulfil his needs because of my shortcomings, physically. I had never thought about the jealousy issue. But you are spot on. I wish more people saw how utterly devastating pornography is to a marriage. I felt like my ex-husband hated me and hated women. All women were temptresses unless they tracked like the Amish. So that strange dynamic entered into my life, as well, which made me feel more unattractive! Sadly, he eventually transferred that anger toward my daughter and myself. Now, we talk to our boys every three months about what porn does to a man’s mind, to his wife, to his future marriage, and to his future daughters. Thank you for writing this valuable key. I know it wasn’t easy.

  13. A member of the clergy in my church asked me in an interview, “How do you know that your husband is not using porn?”. My reply, which was something I did NOT know before I spoke the words, was, “Because he treats me well.”.

    This has become my watchword. If he relapses, he becomes angry again, faultfinding, criticizing, and generally short tempered with everything, but especially me. I’ve also learned though, that when he is struggling with something that would LEAD to a relapse, he gets more short tempered also – just not as extreme. And if I am aware, and focus on helping rather than reacting, it is helpful to know this.

    When he starts getting short tempered with me, I go on alert. Often it is a change in life that he is struggling to process or cope with – and that makes him VULNERABLE to temptation from past addiction. So if I recognize that, I can help him talk it out, or work through it better, and the pitfall is avoided. If I aggravate it (by reacting – anger for anger), it makes it harder for him to resist. His past addiction is NOT my problem, nor is it my responsibility to solve it for him (I do keep getting accused of that when I try to explain this). But I AM his wife, and if we are “one”, then I am responsible for helping him in kind and loving ways – I am responsible for being his “helpmeet” (willing to reach for him when he is struggling to reach for me). My strengths help compensate for his weaknesses (as God intended) – I am good at isolating emotional issues that blindside him, he is not. Together, we are better than we are alone.

    I have also seen in our life, and in the lives of others who are dealing with this issue, that the path of progress IS imperfect. Success has a pattern that is unexpected for most people. They think if you are succeeding at overcoming a porn addiction, that a person will forsake it and never be tempted again. This sets many up for failure. The path of success is usually two steps forward, one step back. What determines whether it is success or not, is not whether you relapse, but whether you correct, and try again. As long as someone corrects and re-commits, the time between relapses gets longer, the degree of relapse becomes less, and the path is upward. And THAT is what success in this looks like. I wish more men AND women knew this, so they could respond with hope and renewal of effort, instead of with despair and capitulation when a relapse occurs.

    Thanks for speaking about this. It matters.

  14. Gary, I tried to get the ebook, Every Good Marriage Begins with a Funeral, but it says I’m already a subscriber. Can you please send to my email? Thanks

  15. I’m sure this post was difficult for you. Thank you for all of the time you’ve taken to research and seek wise counsel for your readers who may struggle in this area. This post was difficult for me to read, I don’t know if my husband has issues with porn. There are times I wonder. There was a period of time not long ago when things seemed different for us in the bedroom and for some reason I had an urge to look through his phone. Sure enough I saw pictures of other women, they were not in the nude, but close enough. I spent a few days in prayer. I didn’t have peace about telling him what I stumbled on. At first I was angry, then hurt and I felt betrayed. I had taken some risqué pictures for him a few years back and took the book out and set it on his pillow one morning with a note: “in this book, are photos of a woman who is very real, and still very hot for you.” It took another two days in prayer when the Lord showed me how controlling I am in my marriage. Through scripture, I realize God hates that character in me as much as he hates when my husband looks at another woman with lust. I was embarrassed. I pulled my husband aside and told him what happened and I asked him to forgive me for being so controlling. I told him that I will be working on that character flaw. My husband was floored and he asked me to forgive him for what he had on his phone and felt sorry that he fell into temptation. He didn’t try to water it down and make excuses, which I appreciated. We prayed, we forgave, we moved on. Once in a while I will get a prompting to pray for him in this area, and I will also ask the Lord to burn in me a desire for my husband in times when life has both of us distracted.
    It always seems to me, when I seek Christ for the solution in any area of my life, His Grace is sufficient.
    Thanks again for the time and work it took you to post this insightful article! I know it will be a tremendous blessing to marriages.

  16. I usually greatly enjoy your posts. And I think you are spot on with this article. With one exception. There’s no righteous anger over this sin. This is adultery- point blank. I think men are coddled and petted and given a pass on lay of any kind- whether it be with porn or with real women. As women, we are encouraged to ‘understand’- which we should try to do of course. But where is the compassionate understanding for us? I don’t see it in this article. And you generally don’t see it in the church at all. Women are encouraged to power through- suck up their hurt and anger and stand by our man. It grieves me. I can guarantee you that if it was reversed, and women were the main beings who struggled with this, the rules would be TOTALLY different. I just don’t see any love or support for women- not just in this article but across the board. This needs to change.

    • Completely agree. We as women need to feel loved, protected, and secure. When this is not provided, and repeated betrayal is happening, our natural defense is to close in and protect ourselves. We are not Jesus and can’t continually offer patience with the “I’m so sorry you’re struggling with being sexually arroused by another woman” over and over. I agree it’s a deep struggle that men need to conquer with porn being everywhere but the responsibility lies with relying on the Holy Spirit, seeking Him daily, seeking older men on how they conquered, accountability groups, and asking for help against temptation whenever it comes. I ask, how do we shift more accountability to the men in their walk with God, their leaning on the Holy Spirit for his power over sin and temptation, while leaning into women with a gentleness over the brokenness of feeling rejected and unwanted. In short, men are angry because they are walking by their own fleshly desires, and we are suppose to be there and be understanding of the struggle within them that can’t seem to ever be conquered? What I don’t think, and is not talked about, is the broken damage to women that porn causes and our long journey to recovering from that as well. If we’re required to have patience with having a gentle spirit, then men are even more so, as the leaders of the families, required to have a gentle spirit when a women struggles with her self-worth due to this secret adultery.

      • Having experienced virtual as well as literal infidelity myself over the years, I understand your frustration; however, as you want your husband to look to the Holy Spirit for victory, so can you.

        I have personally found II Corinthians 10:5 to be very helpful: “Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;”

        As betrayed as you feel, please give that emotion over to the Spirit, Who has also been betrayed by your husband’s sin and allow that understanding to comfort you. As you experience the grace of God healing your hurt spirit, you can extend the grace of God in healing your hurt relationship.

        • I completely agree and thank you for your word. To clarify, a women’s role to lean on the Holy Spirit is just as important, absolutely. I hope I made clear that I was sharing a voice for women that is rarely heard, as Allie stated above. There is a patience and understanding men will equally need to have in this journey, as a women’s heart and trust becomes fragile when her husband struggles with an addiction to pornography. Like you stated, at the end of the day, we all need Jesus to heal our wounds but I do believe in equal understanding and hurt caused when sin is committed. When that happens, true changing repentance happens.

      • I agree with you Sarah. Part of a man’s true repentance is understanding that their wives will need to talk through this; that many wives will never forget this; and that they will need to be understanding, accommodating (let her see their phone, history, etc.) for maybe the rest of their lives. It is cruel for a man to say, “When are you going to get over this?” and thus imply that the problem is with the wife. Repentance should lead men to say, “I’m sorry my actions have caused you this much pain. I did this to you, and I’m willing to bear the consequences, blaming myself and not you for needing reassurance.” That’s not only fair, it’s necessary for the husband’s spiritual healing.

    • Allie,

      In the Spirit I HAVE felt God’s righteous anger, but it has been directed mostly toward an industry that has managed to enslave men and demean women at the same time, while also targeting young men and even boys who lack the spiritual sophistication to put up a fair fight (and then fight the neurological effects for the rest of their lives). I hate that women have to deal with this; instead of being desired and cherished, they are often ignored, misused, and forced to endure anger that isn’t their fault. I’m so with you there.

      In my marriage, though, I aspire toward the attitude of the previous post, “Convicted by a Cross Dresser.” In one sense it’s not fair for me to say that, since I know my wife is one of the least likely candidates to ever fall into porn, but statistics tell us that plenty of husbands WILL be having to face this and are having to face this. In that sense, the tables HAVE turned and are turning, sadly.

      Keep in mind, this post was a follow-up to the “Convicted by the Cross Dresser” post, so it seeks to carry that aspiration and spiritual challenge. This isn’t to deny your understandable anger and hurt, or your frustration with a church leadership that may seem to diminish the intensity of pain that women feel over this. I am truly sorry if you and some women that you know have had to bear the burden of one of the most spiritually destructive industries in the history of this nation.

      • Anger at the industry, unless you can shut it down.. is pointless tho. As we wrestle not against flesh & blood. It’s just one other form of take down the devil uses. Are you familiar with Irene Parks…The Witch that Switched? (she’s gone now) Very interesting testimony, she actually had sacrificed babies to Satan and had Lucifer appear to her. She was saved and delivered at the age of 72 after having been raised in a coven. Anyway, she was asked LONG ago what she saw as Satan’s greatest tool against mankind..her answer.. sensuality (not necessarily sexuality). Everyone has it regardless of parts. Notice that even commercials for food products have added much sensuality to the ads?

    • Allie, I agree with you.

      Mr. Thomas, I agree with you also. Porn does create MORE anger in men. But most of these men were angry to begin with. They were angry because they didn’t get their way on some little thing, they were lonely, they were stressed, they were bored, whatever. They just simply refuse to deal with their emotions. In their anger and selfishness, they simply want for them selves. They want to feel good. They want to be in control. Pride, anger, and ego drive them to want only for self, instead of for others. They think sex is only about them. They think sex is a ‘sport’, and a SELF sport at that. Sex is NOT about self. Sex is about GIVING to your spouse, not taking for self. Only when a porn addict learns to value OTHERS above self, will the struggle lessen.

    • I agree that things would be different if the case were reversed but, I will defend the article as it is not intended to be a thorough understanding of all of the ramifications of pornography but about the anger it creates in the man. There’s no way he could possibly cover all the bases. My husband personally has NO obvious guilt over it. He is not a Christian and he can’t seem to figure out why it bothers me or anybody else if he engages in porn. It’s rather disgusting to be cooking his dinner in the kitchen and walk up behind him only to be faced with the images that he’s looking at on his laptop. He tries to get rid of the page but isn’t fast enough. For the moment I’m still here because I believe it’s where God wants me…for now. But it’s been tough.

  17. Here’s a link to some more instructive help about this matter titled “Beyond Pornography”: http://dwillard.org/articles/artview.asp?artID=133

    • I haven’t had time to read this yet, but if Dallas Willard wrote it, it’s worth reading

    • I am a huge reader of Dallas Willard. I am very familiar with his VIM principle, and it was good to read how he applied it to this problem. Really hard things he says, but really helpful if you follow them.

  18. I am a woman who got married at 17 to the only man I have ever been with. My ex husband was and is addicted to porn. This article really opened my eyes to why I felt so unloved, lonely and finally just forsaken after 41 years of marriage. Porn destroys and finally led him to prostitutes. After praying and seeking God I finally decided that if I didn’t get out of the marriage I was going to literally die emotionally. I divorced and am now remarried and happier than I have ever been in my life. I am now in a life giving relationship and am so happy.

    • Praise God for second chances!

    • I’m in the middle of divorcing after 29 years I met my stbx at the age of 17 and married at 20. I have so many questions. But one of his issues is control and controlling information is one way he still controls me. How did you get through this? I don’t want him back… but I’m having such a hard time being civil with him.