This post is fourth of the 4-part series: Overcoming Pornography Addiction
Yesterday we heard from Blake on how he involved and supported his wife Liesel as he tried to overcome his pornography addiction. Today we hear from Liesel. Often when a spouse has a pornography addiction, all the attention for recovery goes to the one with the addiction, but being married to someone with an addiction needs it’s own support and recovery! Liesel will elaborate on both the things that have helped her and things she wished she would have avoided today.
I’m so impressed with Blake and Liesel. Blogging is an incredibly self-conscious experience, but even more so when sharing something so personal. Thank you Blake and Liesel for sharing your story and hope for the benefit of all! And seriously if you or someone you know is struggling to overcome a pornography problem, follow their blog Couples Against Pornography. I love that they have so many guest posts from others sharing their success stories. It is possible! There is hope! – Celeste
When I reflect on the evening that my dear husband confided in me about his pornography addiction, what I wish most was that I had been prepared to respond appropriately to both of our needs. We had been friends for seven years, married for 3.5 years and had introduced our first son into the world just a week before. We had already gone through long periods of separation, Blake’s open-heart surgery, a cross-country move, teaching full time, and the chaos of law school. But I was completely unprepared for his humble and sincere confession and plea for help. I felt betrayed and utterly lost. And very angry.
I recall many times thinking over the next few months, “No one ever gave me a lesson on this! They all lied about marriage. I don’t know what to do!” Resources were thin and most often discouraging and I felt very alone. In many ways I became very childish and selfish in my efforts to cope. I realized some of Blake’s worst fears of rejection as I withheld my love and friendship from him. I had not been prepared to give the love and support that Blake was seeking.
I wish someone had talked with me. I wish my parents and youth leaders had been more upfront with the reality of our internet world. Perhaps they weren’t prepared either. All I knew was that pornography was a dark and awful thing that resulted in divorce and infidelity. And I couldn’t believe that was where we had landed.
But you see, we didn’t land there. Our marriage is stronger than ever five years down the road. Because I have learned to see that my Blake is so amazingly wonderful. And because I love him more than the pain of our journey together. Pornography is scary and so very challenging to face in a relationship. But with the right understanding and tools, we found that what seemed to loom over every aspect of our lives faded into an occasional frustration and annoyance. We still have times that stretch and try us, but we face them together with love and respect for one another.
I would like to share some of the advice I wish I had known on that evening so long ago. It is my hope that it will help you find the right track to strengthening your marriage through this challenge.
1. His pornography addiction does not define who he is.Just three days before our son was born we had visited the beach with some friends. I felt such incredible joy and love for Blake as we played in the water and sand. I was overcome with happiness and felt so comfortable with our relationship. I felt excited and ready to have a baby join our team. Fast forward two weeks and I was looking at Blake and wondering who this person was. My heart felt cold. And as my anger grew it blinded me. I felt like all of those happy moments with Blake had been a farce. I told myself that he must have been pretending to be a good person all those times because he couldn’t possibly be the good person I thought he was if he had a pornography addiction. That thought pattern was incredibly damaging.It took time and counseling for me to realize that the good times were not the farce. Pornography was. That was the part of Blake that was not who he was. He wanted it out of his life, and he was turning to me, his confidant and best friend, to help him.
This addiction doesn’t counteract every thing else about your husband. He is still a good person and he still loves you.
2. You are on the same team.
I tried to play all sorts of roles in the first few months as I dealt with this new information. Sometimes I acted like his mother instead of his wife. Other times I acted like his judge, imposing guilt or punishments I deemed appropriate. I resorted to nagging or controlling, babysitting him, distrusting most everything and checking computers and devices behind his back. It was exhausting and completely unhelpful.
It took awhile for me to realize that those functions were not the correct role. It wasn’t until I began acting like we were on the same team against pornography rather than me vs. him+pornography that we started making some real progress. It required me to reinstate my trust in him and it required him to be trustworthy. Our marriage became blessed with an incredible amount of transparency as we did this.
You are not his mother or the police. You are also not his judge. You are his teammate. Remember! You are on the same team. He hates pornography as much as you do. You will succeed as you work and battle together.
3. Do not probe for or search for details.
One of the biggest mistakes I made early on was probing for specific details. How did you access the pornography and when? How many times? What did you search for and what did you see? I demanded to know in an effort to shame him as he was forced to divulge the details. What was I thinking? It was so painful and embarrassing for him and it was torture for me. In my dark moments my mind would shake those details to the surface and haunt me. I have previously written an entire post about talking enough but not too much because I find it to be such an important and delicate balance.
I avoid unnecessary details now. If there has been a relapse we talk openly, but not in detail. I give him the role of clearing the computer history or filter log because I do not need to see. What a relief to not have to carry those details.
4. Get help. You need to have someone to talk to. But choose wisely.
So much discouragement and shame and anger and hurt! I could not possibly deal with it on my own. And it was difficult to say all I was thinking to my spouse who was already aching at the pain he has caused and feeling deep shame. I needed a safe place to talk openly about my feelings and struggles. However, I did not want to break Blake’s trust in me by telling people without his permission. It felt wrong. It seemed that speaking to my parents would taint their perspective of Blake, as would talking with close friends. But I was dying inside.
I tried to attend a few spouse support groups but it was not the right fit for me. I would leave feeling discouraged and depressed. I finally told Blake that I was going to see a counselor. And he responded that he would do whatever it took to help me. It was the best decision I made. I could finally talk! I let all those dark, angry, scared feelings come pouring out, without fear of repercussion. We alternated individual counseling with marriage counseling over the next few months. It was a safe and scheduled place to talk about the hard things.
It was the difference between night and day for me. Don’t make excuses to not go. And go until you find the right counselor. We didn’t have enough money at the time, but were able to get the help and support we needed through others’ generosity. It was absolutely key for me and our recovery.
5. You are not alone. And there is hope!
You may sit in a crowd and look at the happy couples and think, “I am not like you! I am alone in my pain and sorrow with my broken marriage.” If only you could know how many of us have been where you are. You are not alone. You are not broken beyond repair. Neither is your husband or your marriage. But we cannot help each other if we suffer alone.
Our generation was unprepared for the onslaught of internet pornography. Gone are the days when you could throw out the dirty magazine and be clear of any danger. Most of our dear husbands were exposed to pornography before they were capable of getting the help they needed and wanted.
Pornography is powerfully addicting. Combine that with the expanding internet before filters were in place plus the shame and lack of open discussion and you have our men, struggling alone to fight the fight. We are going to change that. Our job is to bring it to light and suffocate pornography through transparency, love, and hope. I hope you will join our community of couples fighting to strengthen marriage against pornography.
I may not have had these tools when we began our journey to fight pornography, but my desire is to make sure others do. You can do hard things! You will succeed. And you will look at your husband and feel the most intense love and gratitude for what you have accomplished together.