I walked in on my husband looking at pornography. I was crushed because he knew how I felt about pornography and promised he wouldn’t view it. Now all I can think about is him wanting to look at it. When he comes home from work, he likes to relax in the bedroom so he can cool down because he works outside. I’m in the other room and always wondering if he’s watching pornography. I hate that I think like that now. One thing he has said to me when we have talked about it is that I need to have faith in him and trust him. I don’t know how to do that now. He says that I just need to do it. That’s a lot easier said than done. How am I supposed to do trust him and have faith in him that he’s not doing that?
We have a great marriage and are very good at communicating. We talk about what upset us and what we think each of us can work on to avoid it in the future and how we can better handle a situation like that. We have talked a lot and have made some progress, but I personally feel it’s not enough. I don’t know what else we can do. My husband has told me that he’s sorry, but I feel he needs to show me and I’m at a loss on what he can do. He told me why he did it, but his explanations feel like excuses. One of his explanations is that he is too used to seeing my body. I don’t know what to believe. So, I took it upon myself to keep him from seeing me naked every day and, after a couple days, he came to me and said that he felt I gave up on our marriage by doing that (that comment made me feel extra horrible).
Maybe you can help give us some insight on what we can do, both individually and as a couple, to make things better. We have talked about trying to act like we’re dating again, but I’m at a loss on how we can do that. We’ve talked about going on more dates (which is difficult because we are tight on money right now where I just had our second child two weeks ago).
I see why you’re feeling uncertain about all of this. Not only did your husband break his word to you about avoiding pornography, but he also gave you reasons that leave you feeling blamed, degraded, and more confused. I agree with you that more needs to be done to create security in your marriage. Even though you may be good communicators around other topics, there’s something important missing here that won’t automatically be repaired by going on more dates.
First of all, please don’t make this about your body. I know that’s easy to say but difficult to do. The body is the product in pornography, so it’s almost impossible to not automatically compare your own body to the enhanced fictitious bodies your husband was viewing. Please hear this one thing: Your body isn’t the reason your husband chose to look at pornography. This is a common excuse both men and women use as a reason for consuming pornography, but it’s based on the destructive lie that women’s bodies exist for male pleasure. You’ll spare yourself tremendous suffering by rejecting this lie and embracing the truth that your body isn’t on display for a pass/fail evaluation.
When you discover your husband betraying his commitment to you by viewing pornography and sexually arousing himself, it’s tempting to go straight to seeking explanations for his behavior. While that will eventually be an important area for him to explore as he learns more about his own choices, the immediate need is for you to have the safety and security of not being blamed and knowing that he is going to do whatever it takes to repair broken trust.
Many betrayed women reflexively take it upon themselves to fix this problem by blaming themselves instead of expecting him to take full responsibility for breaking his commitment to your marriage. It’s not your fault, your body’s fault, or the fault of your marriage that he looked at pornography. If he doesn’t take responsibility for his choices, it doesn’t mean that it automatically falls on you to pick up the blame. If you want security back in your marriage, you can stand in this truth and expect him to take individual responsibility.
This individual responsibility shows up in the following ways:
- Sincere remorse
- Specific actions to prove he’s not viewing it anymore
- A full disclosure of his secretive behaviors
- Seeking professional help
- Seeking educational resources to understand his thinking, emotions, and behaviors
- Seeking spiritual healing, support, and accountability
- No blame, defensiveness, gaslighting, or other abusive behaviors
- Full transparency with computer and device usage
If he resists any of these areas, don’t make excuses for him just to keep the peace. Many betrayed partners sacrifice their own internal peace while engineering outwardly calm conditions, hoping that things won’t get worse. True peace is less about external conditions and more about knowing and embracing the truth of what’s really happening. If you’re going to feel secure in this relationship, you’ll feel him carrying the burden of proof that he’s doing everything possible to restore your trust.
Between dealing with this betrayal in your marriage and caring for a new baby, I hope you are getting support for yourself. Do you have safe and loving supports in your life who can help you manage the fear, insecurity, and exhaustion? It’s important to know that you have someone who can help you sort through the confusing messages during this vulnerable time in your life. Even though money is tight, you can still seek support from betrayal trauma support groups, church leaders, and close personal relationships.
While long-term trust takes time to build, you can begin feeling some initial trust when you see him taking full responsibility without blame while doing everything he can to eliminate this from his life. If he doesn’t know what else to do, then he can seek advice and support from others who have been down this road. You don’t know the scope of his issue and it’s not your job to investigate it. You know enough right now that he’s crossed lines and has work to do. You and this marriage deserve his best efforts.
Geoff will answer a new family and relationship question every Friday. You can email your question to him at [email protected]
If you’ve broken trust with your spouse and want a structured approach to repairing the damage you’ve created, I’ve created the Trust Building Bootcamp, a 12-week online program designed to help you restore trust and become a trustworthy person. You can receive 15% off by entering the code MERIDIAN at checkout. Visit www.trustbuildingacademy.com to learn more and enroll in the course.
About the Author
Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in St. George, Utah. He specializes in working with couples, pornography/sexual addiction, betrayal trauma, and infidelity. He is the founder of LifeStar of St. George, Utah (www.lifestarstgeorge.com) and Alliant Counseling and Education (www.alliantcounseling.com). Geoff is the co-author of “Love You, Hate the Porn: Healing a Relationship Damaged by Virtual Infidelity”, the host of the Illuminate podcast, and creates online relationship courses available at www.trustbuildingacademy.com. He earned degrees from Brigham Young University and Auburn University. He is married to Jody Young Steurer and they are the parents of four children.
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