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    This Exchange simulates the original Couples Coping Support Group. It is designed to help persons with concerns in their relationships, family, marriage, seperation, divorce, etc.Offering a wide range of real world, personal experiences, information, knowledge, suggestions, & views from real people.
    How should I react
    MissCaptainKirk posted:
    Hi there everyone, some of you may have read some earlier posts of mine concerning this matter. I have a husband with a porn addiction, and I told him he needed to seek counseling. Good news, he goes to a sex addiction recovery group sort of like AA. He goes of his own free will as I have never made him do anything to seek help so it makes me feel positive about his recovery. However, I know this is going to be a long journey and change doesn't happen overnight.
    He obviously still has the addiction and his behaviour/attitude/the way he treats me changes when he is struggling with it. I rarely if ever address his use, I usually just address how he is treating me badly, as I am not trying to guilt trip. But he confesses to me when he has been using. What I don't know is how to react when he tells me. I am obviously hurt, sad, and angry about it but it isn't like I am going to yell at him b/c he is doing something about it.
    I went to a group (related to my husband's group) for the spouses of sex addicts, but it is also conducted in AA fashion and I'm not allowed to ask any questions. The people in the group tend to react in extreme anger or always snooping/spying on their spouse, so it is also a recovery group. I don't do these things so I sort of feel uncomfortable there. When my husband confesses to me, I don't know what to do with my emotions so I just say something like "Ok" and go away by myself for a while and do something to let out the feelings, like go for a run, or sometimes I go away by myself b/c I start having an anxiety attack (I have depression/anxiety but it is something I keep mostly to myself and my counselor).
    I've told him he doesn't always have to tell me but he is a very emotional person and not good at keeping secrets so he tells me everything at some point or another. Does anyone have experience with this or know how to react when he confesses he is using porn? Or what to do with my feelings?
    stephs_3_kidz responded:
    I think at some point you're going to have to go beyond saying "OK" and let him know how angry and hurt you are. If he never sees any consequences for his behavior, is he really going to have motivation to change?

    Well, my DH had a porn addiction that I discovered while we were still newlyweds, we'd been married 8 or 9 months? I think.. We have always had a very active sex life so I didn't understand what the attraction was. I forgave him, moved on..then caught him 3 more times in the next couple of years. He NEVER confessed, just started making apologies and excuses. The last time I found it, I'd had enough. I'd forgiven and moved past it 3 times before that. I was pregnant with our second child and I was extremely, extremely angry.

    ***He always hid his "stash" in various places. Denied actually buying the stuff himself, although I found a card for a renewal with HIS NAME ON IT! and he still denied it. Which made him untrustworthy in my eyes..lying with the evidence in front of him? But he was ashamed and he didn't know what else to say.***

    But anyway, when I found it the 4th and final time, I told him that he needed to make a choice: his wife and children, or the porn. I was dead serious. I was ready to end my marriage over it, and he knew it. He made his decision that day, he struggled, but eventually he did move past it.

    A lot of it I chalked up to immaturity, sexual curiosity, etc.

    And this all goes back to him selling himself to me as something different than what he really was. Before we married, we went to church together 3 or 4 times a week, and he seemed to really have a clear definition of who he was religiously, morally....and that's what he sold to me before I married him. He had expressed his lack of desire for porn and even stated that it had no place in a marriage..then I found out he'd had porn even BEFORE we were married. So you can see what a disappointment it was to me. I felt like a fool.

    Every time I found the porn I cried and I withdrew and beat myself up over it and held my anger in. It didn't get me anywhere. He saw that I would take all the blame on myself, which took the guilt off of him, and so he had no reason to stop. Until I had the nerve to stand up for myself and say, hey, I'm not putting up with this anymore, and I told him how serious I was--he didn't take me seriously.

    I'm not saying you have to go all crazy on him or anything. But you need to express EXACTLY how you feel--YOU are the one being hurt by all this! So why should he get off scot-free?

    It does sound like he's experiencing major guilt from the porn addiction, which is a struggle in itself. Why do you feel the need to protect him from your displeasure in what he's doing? He needs to see the extent of how he's damaging you and your marriage--because that might be the motivation that will get him to quit.

    MissCaptainKirk replied to stephs_3_kidz's response:
    Well, your story is pretty similar. We have only been married 10 months now. I was a virgin before we were married and I also knew nothing about porn addiction (I barely even knew anything about porn). And yeah, he told me stories of his past and felt really bad about stuff (besides anything sex-related) so I told him it was ok and that was the "old" him before he came to salvation and I wasn't going to hold it over his head. (We met through a Bible study so I knew he had changed spiritually from his past).
    BUT they were really only half the story and b/c he can never keep a secret I found out AFTER we were married the other halves of the stories of his past (let's just say the other halves of the stories were so bad that I went and got tested for STDs, fortunately I didn't have any).
    We also have always had a great sex life in our marriage and I am always up for trying new things and pretty much always "available" and have made it clear to him. So the porn addiction was pretty shocking. I hated myself and my looks for months and I still kind of do.
    Anyway, b/c his behaviour/actions were so bad when he was struggling with the porn, not to mention we couldn't even have sex b/c he had been using so many times every day, I decided I had put up with enough. I sat him down and told him in detail how I felt, even wrote him a letter b/c I am not good at expressing all my feelings aloud and I wanted to make sure he fully understood my emotional torture.
    This is what made him decide to go to counseling (at my suggestion). And when he confesses to me about using, he can tell I am angry by my face and I even start crying and he knows I leave and go running or whatever b/c I am upset. What I am having a hard time with is, when he confesses to me he apologizes and is crying sometimes and stuff (like I said, he is very emotional) and he is reading his Bible more than he used to and he keeps going to the meetings so I don't know if yelling at him/being angry at him is called for or whether I should deal with it on my own? And he also brings up my promise that I mentioned before, of not holding his past over his head.
    So what do I do?
    stephs_3_kidz replied to MissCaptainKirk's response:
    You hold him accountable.

    You're not holding his past over his head, you're trying to get him to change his present!! He obviously doesn't see that. But his past is related to his present, and the past you forgave him for, wasn't the past that was his reality. Until he acknowledges that and gets real about his desire to kick his addiction, there is nothing you can say or do that will convince him to stop. You have to make him understand, though, what this is doing to you. If you have to get angry with him, get angry! Right now he sees you retreating by crying and literally running away. How does that affect him? It doesn't, not really. It ges him off the hook in his mind, because he's not really having to take ownership for his own actions. So he lets you get your cry out and then he thinks it's ok since he "confessed" and then goes right back and does it again. And confesses again. So you cry and go for a run. Again.

    He's going through the motions--counseling, reading his Bible, telling you what you want to hear--but he's not really changing anything. He's just making empty promises and probably holding out hope that you'll just accept it and let it go.

    DH and I were both virgins when we got married.
    stephs_3_kidz replied to stephs_3_kidz's response:
    I just wanted to add, that your marriage CAN be fixed. DH and I have been married for almost 15 years now and we have 4 beautiful children, a very healthy sex life, and I've forgiving him 100% for everything he put me through for what..I guess about 7 years? All said and done, it was spread out that long...

    He stopped the porn once and for all and still to this day is ashamed of it, even though I don't beat him up over it. What's done is done, he can't change it. All he can do is not do it again. He's a wonderful husband and I know with 100% certainty that he would never do anything to hurt me or hurt our marriage ever again.
    stephs_3_kidz replied to stephs_3_kidz's response:
    That should say "I've forgiven him 100% for everything he put me through.." sorry. I promise I'm not stupid.
    MissCaptainKirk replied to stephs_3_kidz's response:
    Thank you for helping me understand the situation. I suppose it is a little bit harder for me to do anything but leave b/c we live in a very small studio apartment and I just don't want to be near him for a while. This isn't an excuse though, you are still right.

    I am younger than my husband by four and a half years, and I am also a person who, like my father, abides by strict personal rules of honor and respect. The idea of a sex addiction is so appalling to me, and I know it is common but I still feel violated in some way and icky. Is this an okay thing to feel or am I being dramatic?
    It is also hard for me to react in anger to my husband because it seems disrespectful.

    Thanks again for your advice...I am sure I will have to deal with this many, many times. Oh and don't worry, I misspell things all the time.
    stephs_3_kidz replied to MissCaptainKirk's response:
    Feeling icky and violated is a normal reaction, I'd say. I felt the same way. So I completely understand what you mean.
    cjh1203 replied to MissCaptainKirk's response:
    I don't think you need to react in anger, if it doesn't come naturally to you, but you can tell him that you feel angry and hurt every time he uses porn.

    That said, though, anger is a normal and legitimate reaction to certain situations and it's not disrespectful to show anger when it's justified -- in fact, it's necessary to release those feelings sometimes or it all just builds up. Being able to express anger is important enough that if you can't do it, you might want to consider getting some counseling for it.

    Have you seen an improvement in your husband's porn use? Do you think he's sincere in his efforts? If so, that does count for something.

    Have you sat down and really discussed this at all since he started going to his group? If you haven't, maybe you need to ask him what he thinks will help him stop watching porn -- like deleting all the porn sites and history from his computer, or figuring out something else to do when the urge hits him, so he has a plan for dealing with it. Let him know you support his efforts, that he can talk to you about it whenever he needs to, and that you'll do what you can to help him. Also, though, do let him know that every incident cuts you like a knife.

    Maybe if you google "dealing with porn addiction", you can find more helpful information.

    The support group you went to sounds very negative -- I wouldn't go back there.
    MissCaptainKirk replied to stephs_3_kidz's response:
    Thank you, I don't want to feel that way and I hope it changes but it is a relief to know I'm not the only one. It is terrible, I'm sorry you once felt that way too.
    MissCaptainKirk replied to cjh1203's response:
    I don't know if I can be a very good judge of whether his use has improved or not since it hasn't been very long since he started counseling. I would say he seems to be trying much harder than he did before.

    We have discussed it, although I always feel awkward discussing something like that. I do not act awkward, however, as I don't want to discourage him from talking to me and I would like to be able to talk about it as well. In talking about it, he feels that the current counseling group he is in is not a good fit for him. Having been to the spouse's version of the group, I actually think his feelings are legitimate. He would like to go to a different sex addict recovery group that is held at a local church and has more one-one-one counseling. I do not have a problem with him switching to that group, and I have told him so.

    Also, he has a filter on his computer that alerts an accountability partner (a friend of his) when he looks at porn, but I'm pretty sure that hasn't stopped him as I don't think his friend checks that email anymore.
    He doesn't usually use the computer anyway, it's usually his smart phone. However, he just willingly got rid of the smart phone so it is getting better and I let him know how proud I am of him for that.
    He has alluded to the fact that he pretty much uses whatever he can find for porn, such as magazines, pictures, the internet, movies, games, etc. It isn't as if he can get rid of every one of those objects in the world.

    I usually ask him to do things when he gets home from work before me, or if he is going to be alone for a while (I do this at his request), so that he doesn't have opportunity to be doing something he shouldn't. But I'm getting kind of tired of having to tell him to do stuff like he is my kid, and I've encouraged him to find things to do on his own. But he doesn't.

    I have told him that I support him but I do have a hard time with the telling him how it hurts me part (obviously).

    I actually never have time to be on our computer at home, and I have tried googling "dealing with porn addiction" or trying to find sites that would help me understand him, but these sites are all blocked on my work computer. I went to a seminar where a former porn addict explained how it all works and from that I better understand my husband. I know he is a good person, he just has this addiction...

    I am not going back to that support group, it was terrible. Thanks for backing me up on that.

    And thanks for all your advice, I am going to keep all of it in mind.
    cjh1203 replied to MissCaptainKirk's response:
    It does sound like he's giving it a real effort, so I hope that makes you feel better, even if it's frustrating that he's still using porn sometimes. Can you ask him how often he's using it?

    Can he change his accountability partner so someone will actually get the email alerts and read them?

    Giving up his smart phone seems like a huge step.

    I don't know if this would help him, but maybe you could suggest he keep a journal of when he uses porn, and under what circumstances. Perhaps it would help him to see how often he does it, and if there's a pattern. If he can actually see how often he's doing it, it might be enough to shake him up a bit.

    I can understand how you might be getting tired of coming up with things for him to do when he's alone but, at least while he's trying to overcome this, if it helps him, it's worth doing. Maybe you could just make a long list for him to refer to whenever he's alone, so you don't have to think of new things every day.

    Really, I don't think there's anything wrong with letting him know how much it hurts you when he does use porn. Knowing that may give him extra incentive to stop.

    Maybe it would be good for the two of you to find a marriage counselor who specializes in sex, and have two or three sessions together, especially since you're having a hard time expressing all of your feelings to your husband. I know you don't want to browbeat him, and you want him to know how much you appreciate that he's making such an effort, but he does need to totally understand how you feel. It would probably also help for you to hear from him what it's like to be on his side of it and try to fight something that's so ingrained in him (although you do seem to have a pretty god understanding of it already). Since you tend to keep things in, having a third party to draw you out and help the two of you start a discussion could really open up the lines of communication.
    MissCaptainKirk replied to cjh1203's response:
    This is a long one but if you will please bear with me it would mean a lot to me.

    Yeah, he is giving an effort and I have commended him on that. I really don't think I can ask him how often he's using it now unless he confesses to me again, at which point yes I will ask him.
    I will also ask him to get the emails sent to another friend whose email works.

    But I don't think the journal idea would work because he would keep it for like two days and then get tired of it and stop. He does that with reading and devotional journals and stuff. Good idea though.
    And he won't do the things I tell him to always do when he gets home unless I remind him every day. And I hate sounding like a mom, reminding a kid to do his chores. I know it's worth it in the long run though...

    Marriage counseling sounds like a wonderful idea! He will not do it if it costs money though. Can you think of a way we could do it for free or super cheap? I can't think of anything...I would say get someone from our church but I already suggested that and he is too ashamed to talk to someone we know, which I completely understand.

    I have been having terrible nightmares about him cheating on me. I think it is because he wants to quit his job as an electrician and go back to the insurance field (which he has a degree for). But the insurance job he wants to do is an adjuster (I think that's what it's called) because a guy from church was telling him about it and now he all of a sudden wants to do it (he has done this multiple times, firmly deciding on a new career path). Anyway this job means he would go to other cities or states to go through insurance claims and stuff and whatever, but he could be gone for weeks at a time! I told him it didn't sound good for our relationship but his mom told him it was a great idea and he listens to his mom no matter what I say.

    Not only is this hard for me because my love language is Physical Touch and of course he will not be there, but also because I know he will cheat on me. This is not paranoia - he has a past drinking problem and he has started drinking again in moderation but only when me or his sister has gone out with him, but when he used to go out with his friends they all drank too much and slept with women and went to strip clubs and stuff. (Found out about those last two AFTER we were married).
    And a couple weeks ago I was out with him but he met one of his old friends and despite my protests the friend got him to drink too much and my husband was acting like a total jerk/idiot and it scared the **** out of me, I have never seen him act like that. And by his own and his family's description of how he used to act, he was acting like he used to.

    I told him he acted terribly and he apologized and I said he had to start drinking a lot less and he agreed. I have only ever had one or two drinks every couple weeks, but I said I would drink less too to be fair.
    But now with his wanting to change jobs I am super scared out of my mind, and am having these nightmares which make it worse.

    This may have been too long, should I post it as a whole new discussion?

    Do you know what will help me be less scared?

    I'm sorry this is so long.
    cjh1203 replied to MissCaptainKirk's response:
    I'm afraid I don't know what will make you less scared. It sounds like there are a lot of big issues besides his porn addiction. The fact that he's started drinking again after having such a serious problem with it is a big worry. Unfortunately, this is something I know too much about. If he is an alcoholic, he can't just cut down -- I don't know how many times I've heard that one. He has to just completely stop, or it's always going to be a problem for him and for your marriage.

    I would say you definitely need marriage counseling, because there are a lot of things putting a strain on your relationship right now. I can understand why your husband doesn't want to talk about someone he knows at your church about his porn addiction and other issues, but I don't really know how else to get no-cost counseling.

    If you call your local mental health association, they can probably give you the names of some therapists who work on a sliding scale, according to income. If you have health insurance, it should cover counseling (minus the deductible and co-pay of course). If there's any way at all you can swing it, even if you have to give up some things for a while. Your marriage seems to be at sort of a critical point right now.

    I'm sorry can't make you feel better. Your husband obviously has an addictive personality, which is a problem for him and will be a bigger problem in your relationship unless you're able to tackle it together. He needs to make counseling a priority, even if it does cost something -- it's an investment in keeping your marriage together, and it has to be important to him.

    I wish you the best of luck, and I hope you can find a marriage counselor that you can afford.

    PS -- Your post wasn't too long at all -- we've seen posts that are a lot longer!
    MissCaptainKirk replied to cjh1203's response:
    Thank you very much for reading all that.

    To be honest I have thought about telling my husband that I think we (I will include myself to be fair, cuz it isn't good for me anyway) should stop drinking. I don't think it's very fair cuz he spends so much money on alcoholic beverages and I am not even allowed to buy new shoes.

    I do have insurance, but he does not. I don't know if we can do marriage counseling on just my insurance? I will try calling the mental health association and asking if they know a good place to go.
    He keeps wanting to go to his parents for marriage counseling and I keep telling him that is NOT a good idea, they are way too involved and wouldn't be able to give us unbiased counsel. Am I right on this?
    I am hitting a lot of brick walls with this marriage counseling thing but I will keep trying.

    I realize he has addictive issues. I mean I realize it now...
    I feel really stupid, cuz I've heard stories of girls who got married thinking their husband was one kind of person and got stuck in a nightmarish marriage cuz he changed right after they got married. And I never thought I would do that...

    I am in such emotional agony right now, and my closest friend is getting married in two weeks and I keep having the urge to tell her not to get married. That is a terrible thought to have. She is a lot like me though and I don't want her life to turn out like mine. But I don't think her fiancee is like my husband so I am not gonna tell her that, I am just gonna hope for the best for her.

    I am just trying to figure out how I am going to present all of these things to him (quitting drinking, marriage counseling, not pursuing that insurance job). Between work and school and trying to keep up on cooking/cleaning and being at his parents' every weekend and having to go to the doctor's a lot I feel like one day its just gonna all be too much and my heart is going to explode.
    Hope that doesn't sound too irrational or dramatic, it is just the description of how painful my feelings are.

    I am fighting every battle to the best of my ability, and some people who only know half the story think I don't try hard enough to get what I want. (Like when a friend and I go shopping and I don't get anything, and she asks me why and I say I am not allowed to, or when I have to stop texting my friend bcuz I am not allowed to text at my husband's parents' house.) They are such small battles and I am focusing my efforts on the big battles right now. But I can't tell people that.

    All my friends don't really talk to me anymore cuz no matter how much I talk good about my husband and give reasonable explanations for why I'm not allowed to do something, they think I am stupid for marrying him. My sister hardly ever talks to me cuz she senses that I'm not happy even though I have never said anything about it to her.

    I feel really alone and really tired. And I think my husband wanting to take this job and my nightmares and all the other issues piling up is wearing down on me, I have been sick for the past couple weeks and it seems to be getting worse.

    I keep feeling like all of this was my fault...that I was too naive when I got married, and I am still pretty naive to keep missing all these terrible addictions my husband has and then I suddenly find out about em.
    And it's my fault my friends won't talk to me, cuz I told em the truth about not being allowed to do things even though I tried justifying it.

    So that is why I am here in this support group, trying to get help, and I really appreciate you cjh1203 and everyone else who has helped me. The encouragement means a lot. I am part of the depression/anxiety group too but this post is more about my marriage.
    I know things will get better eventually and I just need to stick it out and keep fighting the battles as they come.

    Thanks again

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