This series has focused primarily on the subject of pornography. We began by discussing the importance of having the conversation with yourself. This means that those who view porn on a regular basis (whether they’re technically ‘addicted’ or not) need to admit to themselves that it’s a problem, and they shouldn’t be viewing it at all. Then, in our last post we tried to answer the question, “Should I confess this problem to my spouse or not?” Today, we want to tackle a different part of having the conversation with your spouse. This segment is dedicated to those who think their spouse might be involved in porn, but they’re not sure.
Those who think their spouse may be involved in porn often ask what ‘symptoms’ to look for. While these may vary from person to person, some likely symptoms of one who is engaged in porn on a regular basis include:
Privacy: This person wants their privacy protected at all costs. They don’t allow their spouse to see their facebook/twitter/email account. They don’t allow their spouse to see their cell phone. They claim they want “privacy”, but oftentimes what they really want is to hide something.
Internet Useage: Porn is easily available online today. I (Justin) first saw porn at age 11, far before my family had a computer with dial-up internet access. Fast forward today, and the internet is a cesspool of porn activity. Not only is there a ton of porn available online today, but internet browsers all allow a user to quickly clear their recent viewing history. So, if your spouse uses the computer often and their history is always deleted, you may wonder what they were looking at.
Sex: Someone who is engaging in porn on a regular basis may have a sudden increase for sexual activity, or a strong decrease for sexual activity due to masturbation. Those who have an increase for sexual activity may start making unusual requests for the bedroom that are different than your normal times of intimacy.
We should note at this point that these are merely the most common symptoms. And it’s very possible that one spouse may want their “privacy” for a very different reason than porn. Nevertheless, with marriage as a one-flesh relationship, both parties should be open and honest with all of their email/facebook/twitter accounts and internet useage. In a marriage relationship, one cannot use the words, “It’s really none of your business.” The marriage is one relationship, not two. So what one spouse does is very much the business of their spouse.
The question asked at this point is, “How do I have this conversation with my spouse?”
1) Just ask them.
You’re never going to know if you don’t ask them, so just ask them. But don’t do so in a condescending way, instead ask in such a way that your concern is for them. Your desire is for them to be the person God made them to be, and you want to help them become that person. To help them become that person, you have to know whether your suspicions are true or not. So ask them. And when you ask them, be sure you ask them to look you in the eye as they respond. A spouse who has been hiding something (whether it’s porn or something else) can’t tell a lie if they’re looking directly into the eyes of their spouse.
2) Emotionally prepare for their response.
We’re quite certain that any woman (or man) who has a spouse involved in porn will be devastated. There are all kinds of emotions you’ll feel if you discover they are in fact involved in porn. Do your best to emotionally prepare for their response ahead of time. As we mentioned above, your desire is for them to become the person God intended them to be. While you may feel feelings of rejection, feelings of being unsatisfying to them, feelings of being cheated on, feelings of being lied to, feelings of so many other things…you need to deal with many of those emotions ahead of time so that you can help them.
If you’re wondering how you deal with those emotions ahead of time, it’s possible that it may require counseling. It’s also possible that you’ll realize that the core of their sin is self-centeredness, and the core of any of your sin in your marriage is also a result of your own self-centeredness. Realizing this will help you to deal with your own sin before helping him/her deal with theirs. Matt. 7:1-5 is a good reminder on this. Once you are emotionally prepared, then you’ll fully be able to help them.
3) Plan to help them.
You may or may not be able to personally help your spouse get through their struggle. You may want them to get help, but don’t want to be part of the process. You just want to know that they’re meeting with somebody on a regular basis and you want them to share their calendar with you. This is not only understandable, but it’s completely acceptable. But there still may be some things you can do to help them out in their accountability.
One, is to get some good software installed onto your computers at home. X3Watch is probably the best software I’m aware of and I’ve personally worked with a few men who have installed this onto their PC’s. XXXChurch also has some good reading to help you better understand the porn industry and receive some information on how to best work with those who may be struggling.
Another way to help is to do some kind of marriage book study or bible study together. The more he/she desires to improve the marriage, the better your marriage will become. To be honest, some of the strongest marriages aren’t the ones who never go through these types of struggles, they’re the ones who go through them and come out stronger and more in love on the other side.
We realize that this series only touches the surface of a deeply emotional sin and very complex industry. Still, this is a sin that absolutely wreaks havoc within a marriage AND within one’s own relationship with God. It must be dealt with, and it must be dealt with sooner rather than later. In our final post in the series we’re going to discuss having the conversation with your kids. As I mentioned above, I was 11 years old when I first saw porn. I’ll share that story and more next time. Until then…
What other symptoms do you think are common for those who are struggling with porn? If you or someone you love has struggled in this area before, what steps did they find most helpful in their efforts to stop?