By Eric Gomez, MS, LMFT, MHP
This article is meant to bring insight to the many couples who are seeking to repair the damage to their relationship as a result of one of the members struggling with an addiction to pornography.
What is happening to our marriage?
Hurt, pain, anger, resentment, and betrayal are terms that may be used to describe the emotion one feels after learning of their spouse’s addiction to pornography. Guilt, shame, regret, and disappointment may be used to describe how the one who has been addicted to pornography feels as a result of their use over time or after each occurrence (Bruin, 2008). Either way, an addiction to pornography can destroy the emotional closeness and trust in a marriage, and can foster untold amounts of confusion for both members. It is for this reason I want to address three key elements in this article which can help you in the healing and trust building process: understanding the nature of sexual addiction; communicating with one another in such a way that restoration in the marriage is possible; and working with a therapist who has experience helping couples work through an addiction to pornography.
Understanding the Nature of Sexual Addiction
Gordon Bruin (2008) explains gaining an understanding of the addicted brain and how it compels one to continue with addictive behaviors will not only help the one struggling with the addiction, but also help those who are trying to support them in the recovery and change process. Without an understanding of sexual addiction it can be easy for spouses to enter into conflict about how bad the one who engaged in viewing pornography is, when what they’re really up against is the addiction itself. Learning about the nature of sexual addiction also allows the individual struggling with the addiction to better understand how they are personally affected by their engagement with pornography. Furthermore, this understanding equips both members to join together and to support each other by delving into the emotional experiences each has had as a result of the addiction.
Communicating in a Way That Creates Restoration
There is a way for couples to communicate that enables them to effectively work through the hurt, pain, betrayal, and lack of trust presenting as a result of the sexual addiction. Dr. John Gottman (1999) has shown defensiveness, criticism, contempt, and stonewalling to be detrimental in facilitating constructive dialogue between spouses. Their antidotes however, can be useful in helping create dialogue that allows both members to openly express their fears, doubts, and needs to each other in a constructive and healing manner. Gottman (1999) lists the antidotes as the following:
Four Horseman of the Apocalypse Their Antidotes
- Defensiveness Accepting Responsibility
- Criticism Use Gentle Startups
- Contempt Building a Culture of Appreciation
- Stonewalling Do Physiological Self Soothing
Working with an Experienced Therapist
Working with a therapist who understands the nature of sexual addiction, as well as how to help couples communicate effectively, is a major component in the healing, change, and recovery process. Furthermore, an experienced therapist can also help a couple address betrayals of trust, build a network of support, address elements of infidelity, and other aspects of porn addiction which couples may experience.
Hope for the Future
Porn Addiction is not the end of the road for a marriage. Working through the effects of a spouse’s addiction to pornography is not easy, however if wisdom is gained and applied in the process of recovery it is possible for couples to come away from the initial periods of chaos with a stronger relationship and greater levels of transparency. This often requires a firm commitment to their relationship and in many cases to the counseling process. In other words, there is hope for change and growth for the addicted individual, and for the marriage as a whole.
Bruin, G. (2008). Innergold treatment manual. Pleasant Grove, UT: Innergold Counseling Services.
Gottman, J., & Silver, N. (1999). The 7 principles of making marriage work. New York, NY: Three Rivers Press.
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